A dangerous combination: dusk, deer and driving

As the clocks turned back this weekend, few of us who enjoyed the hour of sleep we gained  will have thought about being plunged into darkness for our commute home on Monday.

But those extra hours of darkness, coinciding with many of our drives to work or home as the nights get longer, can be dangerous. Accidents between deer and vehicles peak in Scotland between October and December. At this time of year, deer move down to lower ground for shelter and to feed on grass verges at the side of the road. The highest risk time of day is from sunset to midnight and shortly before and after sunrise.

Because of this, you’ll see some warning signs on Scottish trunk roads for the next three weeks, starting today, asking you to be alert for deer on the road.

The most recent deer-vehicle collisions research shows there are more than 7000 collisions between motor vehicles and deer every year in Scotland, with an average of 65 of these resulting in human injuries. The combined economic value of these accidents, through human injuries and significant damage to vehicles, is £7 million. Across the UK, it’s estimated there are between 42,000 and 74,000 deer-vehicle related accidents a year, resulting in 400 to 700 human injuries and about 15 deaths, with an annual cost approaching £47m.

Deer in mist at sunrise. ©Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

Deer in mist at sunrise.
©Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

Many people think most accidents with deer happen on remote Highland roads, but up to 70 percent actually take place on trunk roads or motorways. And when traffic volume is taken into consideration, the risk of a collision with a deer is about twice as high per vehicle-mile driven in Scotland compared to England.

So how do you avoid being one of these statistics? Here are some tips from the experts:


  • Slow down and watch for deer crossing roads at dusk and dawn.
  • Be particularly alert if you’re driving near woods, as deer can suddenly appear before you have time to brake.
  • If you do see deer, try not to swerve suddenly to avoid hitting them. A collision into oncoming traffic could be even worse.
  • Only brake sharply and stop if there is no danger of being hit by following or oncoming traffic. Try to come to a stop as far away from the deer as possible to allow them to leave the roadside without panic, and use your hazard warning lights.
  • Be aware that more deer may cross after the one or two you first see, as deer often travel in groups.
  • After dark, use full-beams when there is no oncoming traffic, as this will illuminate the eyes of deer on or near a roadway and give you more time to react. But dim your headlights when you see a deer or other animal on the road so you don’t startle it.
  • If you do hit a deer, report it to the police, because the deer may be fatally injured and suffering. The police will contact the local person who can best help with the injured deer. Do not approach an injured deer yourself, as it may be dangerous.


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