Every year, motor collisions involving deer are the cause of animal and human injuries and fatalities, as well as causing substantial damage to vehicles.
Most drivers are aware that they must stop and report accidents, but what isn’t as well known is whether this rule also applies to animal-related incidents.
In this guide for motorists, we explain what you should do if your car hits a deer.
Are you legally obliged to stop after hitting a deer?
Section 170 of the Road Traffic Act of 1980 stipulates the requirement to report an accident and states explicitly that a driver must stop when involved in an accident in which “damage is caused to an animal other than an animal in or on that vehicle”. Under the legislation, “animal” refers specifically to horses, cattle, asses, mules, sheep, pigs, goats and dogs. This means, by law, drivers are not legally required to stop or notify the police of a collision with a deer.
Do I have to tell the police if I hit a deer?
While not a legal requirement, it is advisable for a number of reasons to inform the police if you have hit a deer.
First, the deer may need medical attention, which the police can quickly arrange, usually with specialist deer rangers. The deer may also need removing from the road to avoid obstructing other motorists again which the police will deal with.
The recommended course of action therefore if you do hit a deer is to report it to the police, to allow them to arrange for the deer to be treated or moved as quickly as possible.
Is it an offence to hit a deer with your car?
The Road Traffic Act does not include deer within its definition of animals which must be reported if hit by your vehicle. As such, it is not an offence to hit a deer. However, the police may take action in response to reports of poor driving, which can lead to charges of dangerous or careless driving, with the animal injury or death being taken into consideration as an aggravating factor when determining the penalty.
Is it an offence not to report a deer accident to the police?
UK legislation does not require you to report hitting a deer, however, the Deer Act 1991 prohibits the “taking or killing of deer” unless it is done for the purpose of preventing the suffering of an injured deer. As such, drivers are advised to notify the police in order that deer specialists can take care of the injured animal.
How to report a deer vehicle collision
If you hit a deer with your car, you should pull over as soon as it is safe to do so. Park safely, put your hazard lights on and check yourself and any passengers for injuries. If there are any serious injuries, contact 999 and ask for an ambulance.
You should also inform the police of the incident, providing as much detail as you can about your location and the location of the deer.
What if the deer is still alive and injured on the road?
Your main priority after hutting a deer with your car should be your safety, the safety of your passengers and of other road users. This means avoiding approaching, touching or moving the deer, even if it is injured and still alive, as you may startle it and cause it to bolt into the path of other vehicles, risking further injury and damage.
The best thing you can do is to inform the police as soon as you can, providing details of your location. The police will then contact specialists to help treat or move the deer.
How to avoid hitting deer when driving
The following pointers can help reduce the likelihood and impact of hitting a deer with your car.
First, take note of warning signs advising of deer in the area by driving carefully and watching your speed. If you see one deer, there may be others, so drive with extra care.
It’s also advisable to drive with caution during peak danger periods from sunset to midnight, and the hours shortly before and after sunrise.
While full-beam headlights aid driver visibility on dark roads, they can startle wild animals such as deer, who may freeze in the road at the sight of the bright lights. In this case, it can help to dim your headlights to allow the animal to exit the road.
If you’re suddenly faced with a deer in the road, it’s important not to over-swerve to avoid hitting the animal. This can result in you losing control of your vehicle and potentially colliding with an oncoming vehicle or coming off the road altogether.
In these circumstances, it is safer to hit the deer while keeping control of your vehicle. Check your mirror for vehicles behind you; you shuld only brake sharply or stop the vehicle if there is no danger of being hit from vehicles behind.
Car hitting deer FAQs
What are you supposed to do when you hit a deer?
If you hit a deer with your car, pull over safely and contact the police to notify them of the incident. It's not a legal requirement to inform the police but it is advisable so that the deer can be moved or treated.
Should you stop if you hit a deer?
If you've hit a deer, you should pull over as soon as it is safe to do so and put on your hazard lights. Check yourself and any passengers for injuries and notify the police so that the deer can be treated or removed from the road.
What can happen if you hit a deer?
If you hit a deer, damage to your vehicle could include a smashed windscreen, broken headlights and a crushed car bonnet or bumper. You may also suffer injuries such as whiplash from harsh braking and impact of the collision.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute tax, financial or legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the rules and should not be treated as such.
Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission.
Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert tax, financial, legal or other advice should be sought.