What to do if you hit a deer

Living in rural Wisconsin, you would think at some point in my 28 years of life that I would have hit a deer by now. Not so, my friends. I have been taught by my Dad some very important things to remember if you ever do find yourself in this situation. And I’m grateful for his knowledge on the topic. It came in quite handy this past Thursday as I drove up to Hayward for the Birkie.

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I’ve never been in an accident when I was driving, so I had no idea how I would react when I hit a deer going 65 mph. Apparently, I stay very calm. Here are my tips and knowledge on hitting a deer and keeping yourself safe:

How to avoid hitting a deer (these tips have helped me in the past 28 years):

1. Slow Down

2. My favorite saying as a kid–where there’s one deer, there are more deer!

3. Deer are out at night. Watch for their eyes on the shoulder or median.


Since I had absolutely no warning when the two deer darted out in front/into the side of my vehicle–there was no avoiding the impact.


If you hit a deer:

1. Do not swerve. You can lose control of your vehicle, go off the road and hit a tree, guard rail, another vehicle. It is advised to hit the deer instead of swerving.

2. If you can drive your vehicle off the road, do so. Get off the shoulder as far as possible. Turn on your hazard lights.

3. Determine where the deer is. Did it make it off the road? Do not attempt to drag the deer off yourself. (Unless you know it’s dead and you’re picking it up.) There is a chance it could kick you and cause more harm than good.

4. Call the local police by dialing 911 and reporting the accident. They will ask at what mile marker or closest street, as well as where the deer is located.

5. If you want to pick the deer up (as roadkill), you need to report the accident to the police before you can do so. Local regulations apply. But in Wisconsin you can pick up roadkill.


Luckily I had a sheet of paper in my purse with the steps to do in case of an accident (one of the perks of a company car). I think that having this list greatly helped me focus on what to do and stay calm.

After you hit the deer:

1. Call your insurance company. Report the time, location, details of the accident. It was nice to have all of the paperwork taken care of by the time the police arrived.

2. When the police arrived, the deputy provided me with an incident number to provide to my insurance company. This sheet of paper also came in handy two more times that night!

3. Call friends and family if they are expecting you at a certain time. My friend who was the passenger called my parents to give them a heads up. My Dad called the local county sheriff to report my accident, too.


While I couldn’t open my driver’s side door and there was a great amount of wind blowing in, the car was still safe to drive.

I did lose my driver’s side headlight from the impact, so I had to turn on my fog lights.

Once we got into Hayward (on a tourist weekend, no less) I was pulled over TWO MORE TIMES due to the headlight being out. At least Sawyer County deputies are on top of it! Both officers were extremely nice and understanding once they saw the damage to my vehicle and saw my incident number from the first officer at the scene of the accident. I had a folder to keep all of my documents in (it pays to be organized). Side note: By the third time we were pulled over, we were laughing quite hard since I said “It would be great if I was pulled over in the next 3 miles. This has never happened to me in my life!”  I’ve appointed myself as a prophet now. 🙂


In the daylight we got a better look at the vehicle. My Dad was able to pry open the driver’s side door and clean out the nasty remnants (Thanks Dad!) He also made sure the wheels were okay and I tested the alignment which wasn’t damaged. We were able to drive it back another 280 miles with no issues.

The best piece of advice I have is to stay calm, be organized–have a list of numbers to call in case of an accident, and don’t let it ruin your weekend. Hitting a deer can be life threatening, so I am grateful we were okay. (Those were actually my first words after we hit. We’re okay. We’re okay. I had to convince myself somehow.)

And a good GREAT weekend was had despite the accident. Stay tuned for details of Birkie 2012!


Bob Swenson (dad) - February 28, 2012 - 9:13 pm

Very nicely stated but miss the picture of the deer squirted feces between the door and the jam. Design a scratch and sniff for the internet and you will become a wealthy person!

Dano - February 29, 2012 - 8:47 am

Well said, Annika! Not swerving is one of the most critical things a driver can do to remain safe.
I’ve also heard that if you see deer on or near the road, beeping the horn can help startle them off.
Glad you handled everything so well and still enjoyed the weekend up north – looking forward to hearing more about that!

Allie - March 2, 2012 - 6:42 pm

Yikes! Glad you’re ok!

I hit one coming home from work at 5am one summer- it’s amazing what adrenaline will do to you- I thought the car looked fine (not too much damage though)

My strategy is to aim for them if they’re on the road. They’ll never remain in the same place you first see them, but will inevitably end up which ever direction you steer… 😀