Rudolph and his red nose aside, deer on road can actually ruin Christmas

  • Published
  • By Col. Will Phillips
  • Air Education and Training Command Director of Safety

Recently, I visited a rural neighborhood north of San Antonio and counted 13 deer in one person’s front yard. THIRTEEN! Whether you see deer as a target, a garden nuisance, a picturesque element of the woodland environment or one of Santa’s team, we can all agree they present a life-threatening hazard to a motorist.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 1.5 million deer-vehicle accidents occur each year, resulting in more than 10,000 injuries and up to 200 deaths. That risk is particularly acute in central and southwest Texas, home to Joint Base San Antonio and Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio. Considering the vast majority of AETC bases and installations call the south and southeastern United States home, the threat proves quite serious for most of our personnel.

USA Today recently published an interesting article on how to avoid hitting a deer and what to do if it can’t be avoided. I highly recommend taking a look at that story and asking yourself what you can do to avoid a costly and potentially deadly collision, especially during the time of year when deer are most active.

When I resided at Laughlin for pilot training as a young lieutenant, many people used small plastic whistles mounted to the front of their cars. These devices generate a sound that’s supposed to repel deer any time the car moves above 30 mph. Do they work? Analysis from the insurance industry says it’s unclear whether they make any difference at all, according to Progressive Insurance. But for less than $15 on Amazon, maybe they’re worth a try, especially if they prevent a trip to the hospital and/or your car from being totaled.

Kyle Baum, one of our AETC Occupational Safety managers, lives in a rural area just outside of San Antonio and sees plenty of deer. “I have had the misfortune of hitting four deer – two with a car and two with a pickup truck,” Baum said. “After the last accident, I put a deer horn on my vehicle and have not had a mishap with a deer since.” While it’s difficult to attribute his reduction in wildlife mishaps to the deer horn or sheer luck, the sudden change in fortune makes you think.

Either way, it’s clear that maintaining vigilance, reasonable speeds, and exercising increased caution during dawn and dusk are all methods that will help increase your odds of arriving safely. It’s easy to convince yourself a few extra miles per hour on a two-lane highway won’t hurt, especially in rural areas when you may not see another car for miles. But we must remember cars aren’t the only hazard on the road, and real deer don’t have bright red noses that shine like beacons on a foggy Christmas Eve.