HARLINGEN, Texas — Drivers, beware. Your chances of hitting a deer are at their highest now through next week.
For a week after clocks change this Sunday, motorists are 16% more likely to run into a deer, according to a recent report that examined a dataset of more than one million instances of vehicles colliding with deer across 23 states in the United States.
A team of researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle, led by Calum X. Cunningham, published their findings Wednesday with Current Biology, detailing how deer-vehicle collisions spike in late October through early November.
According to the researchers, deer strikes spike in late October and early November in all the states studied — except for Alaska. “Almost 10% [of these collisions] occurred during the two-week period centered on the autumn time change, which is 2.5 times greater than expected if collisions were universally distributed,” they stated.
Of course, the time change coincides with the deers’ rutting season — when bucks tend to wander in search for mating opportunities — but the time change also shifts more human commutes into the darker hours, they noted.
The paper argues that a permanent adoption of daylight saving time would save lives — of both deer and motorists — by reducing deer-vehicle collisions.
“The shift to standard time each autumn causes an abrupt increase in nighttime driving during the peak breeding season for deer, resulting in a 16% increase in deer-vehicle collisions,” the researchers stated.
The report’s findings indicated:
- Deer-vehicle collisions are 14 times more likely shortly after dark than before
- Nighttime traffic and collisions with deer are more likely during standard time
- Collisions with deer spike by 16% in the week after clocks change in the fall
- Adopting permanent daylight saving time in the U.S. would prevent more than 36,000 deer-vehicle collisions and would save $1.2 billion in collision costs annually, the researchers estimated
The researchers said conservation efforts tend to focus on preventing impacts by addressing “spatial causes of collision risk,” but that reductions in accidents might be achieved by focusing more on the clock.
“Year-round [daylight saving time] presents one such way of reducing traffic volumes at night, with our analysis indicating [daylight saving time] reduces collisions simply by shifting the times at which humans are active relative to sunlight,” the paper concluded.
Conversely, adopting a permanent standard time would have dire effects — actually leading to more deaths, according to the research.
“In contrast, year-round standard time would incur significant animal mortality and societal costs, estimated here at 66 human fatalities and more than $2 billion in the U.S. annually,” the research team concluded.
Daylight saving time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, so be sure to move those clocks back one hour — and be extra careful on the roads in the following days.