North Country drivers urged to aim for ribs of deer when they enter the road, not swerve away
Sunday, October 7, 2012 - 6:36 pm

Two Cornell University professors are warning motorists not swerve when confronted with a deer in the road.

Lynne Irwin. a Biological and Environmental Engineering professor who provides local highway agencies in the state with technical assistance and training through the Cooperative Extension network, says drivers need to slow down and be vigilant this time of year.

By slowing down, drivers reduce the chances that a vehicle occupant will be seriously injured in the event of a deer-vehicle collision, he says.

The advice to not swerve the vehicle is important when confronted by a deer. The best place to hit a deer is in the flanks. The rib bones in the flanks are more flexible, and vehicular damage is minimized, according to Irwin.

Swerving the vehicle can risk roll-over accidents and possibly hit an oncoming vehicle or a roadside object. Most vehicles today have anti-lock brakes, so slamming on the brakes has fewer consequences than what used to be the case, he said.

The objective is to reduce speed as much as possible before the collision, and still maintain steering control in the vehicle.

Paul Curtis is a professor of Natural Resources and a nationally recognized expert on rural, suburban and urban wildlife who has coordinated the Wildlife Damage Management Program for Cornell Cooperative Extension since 1990.

“The numbers of deer-related vehicle accidents are highest each fall as the peak of deer breeding season approaches. About two-thirds of the deer-car collisions that occur each year in New York happen during October, November and December," he said.

Curtis said avoiding a deer can be more dangerous than hitting one.

“Motorists should be more alert for deer at this time of year, especially in early morning and around dusk. If a deer-car collision is inevitable, it is better to hit the deer, than to swerve and try to avoid it. People are more likely to be injured if their car leaves the roadway, or they cross lanes into oncoming traffic.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that about 1 million deer-car accidents occur on American roads each year, killing 200 people, injuring almost 10,000 more and causing about $1 billion in vehicle damage.