Oh Dear! Deer-Vehicle Collision Season Begins in North America

Autumn is upon us. In many areas of the country, October brings breathtaking and colorful foliage; pleasant days followed by crisp, cool nights; and jack-o-lantern carving.

It’s also the most-prevalent time of year to be involved in a deer-vehicle accident. Deer are on the roam because not only has mating season kicked in—hunting season has started, too. It’s no wonder deer are on the wander!

Driver beware: 'Tis the season for increased deer-vehicle crashes. Photo credit: Pascal L. Marius via istockphoto.com

Driver beware: ‘Tis the season for increased deer-vehicle crashes.
Photo credit: Pascal L. Marius via istockphoto.com

October through December can be a dangerous time of year for man and deer alike. The Insurance Information Institute cites that approximately 1.6 million deer-vehicle collisions occur each year, resulting in 200 fatalities, tens of thousands of injuries, and nearly $4 billion in vehicle damage and insurance payouts.

As deer population grows and urban habitats continue to encroach upon rural environments, the issue is not going away. However, steps can be taken that will help lessen the chance of becoming another deer-vehicle statistic.

Following are seven Insurance Information Institute defensive driving tips to avoid hitting a deer:

Be Alert. Be especially attentive shortly before and after sunrise; and also from sunset to midnight. These are peak times for deer to be on the move.

Use High Beams. While driving at night when there is no oncoming traffic, high beams will help illuminate the eyes of deer on or near the roadway.

Blow Your Horn. If you see a deer or are driving in an area densely populated with deer, slow down and give your horn one long blast to frighten them away.

Brake Firmly. When a deer crosses your path, brake but stay in your lane. Many serious crashes occur when drivers swerve to miss a deer—and instead hit another car.

Photo credit: Adshooter via istockphoto.com

Photo credit: Adshooter via istockphoto.com

Slow Down. Drive with caution through deer-crossing zones because these are areas with large deer populations.

Wear Your Seat Belt. People are more likely to suffer injuries in car-deer collisions when not wearing a seat belt.

Don’t Rely on Deer Whistles. Although you can buy deer-deterring devices—deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors—they have not been proven to reduce deer-vehicle collisions.

Remember, too, that deer seldom travel alone. If you see one deer, chances are that others are nearby.

If you hit a deer:

  • Pull to the side of the road as soon as it is safe.
  • Remain in your vehicle.
  • Call the police and if needed, emergency services.
  • Stay away from the injured animal.

Interesting deer tidbits:

  • Eleven states have designated the white-tailed deer as an official state symbol—Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
  • White-tailed deer are fast. They can run up to 40 miles per hour; jump 9-foot fences, and swim 13 miles an hour.
  • West Virginia tops the list of states where deer-vehicle accidents are most likely to occur. The odds of hitting a deer in the Mountaineer state are 1 in 44.
  • The state where these collisions are least likely to occur? Hawaii, where drivers have a 1 in 8,765 chance of colliding with a deer.
  • According to State Farm statistics, 10 percent of deer claims occur in Pennsylvania.

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