Fewer daylight hours and a spike in deer activity during the fall months increase the chances of a crash on roadways. Animal collisions become more common this time of year, with peak breeding season taking place in November. A collision with a deer or other animal can put a serious dent in your vehicle, if not destroy it completely, and could result in serious injuries or fatalities.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Pennsylvania had the third highest number of fatalities (92) from collisions with animals in the country, behind Texas (180) and Wisconsin (121). Pennsylvania ranks third among states with states with the highest comprehensive insurance claim frequency for animal strikes in November, with claim frequency nearly double the national average for November. West Virginia ranks highest for the state with the most deer/car collision rate, followed by New York, Montana and Kentucky; also high risk states. AAA East Central estimates that the damage could range from a couple hundred dollars, to a total loss. The average car vs. deer collision claim is roughly $2,500.
“Drivers need to observe some very important safety tips to avoid thousands of dollars in unwanted repair bills and injuries,” according to Terri Rae Anthony, AAA Safety Advisor. “Avoiding a deer can be tricky for Pennsylvania drivers, especially in November and December when most automobile/deer crashes occur, remaining alert and limiting distractions is a must,” she added.
The term “deer caught in headlights” exists for a reason. AAA has tips for drivers to avoid this scenario:
Don’t swerve. If a deer darts out in front of you, brake firmly but resist the urge to swerve. This could cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
Where there is one, there are others. Deer tend to travel in groups, so expect others to follow.
Expect them to run. Slow down when approaching deer that are near the side of the road.
Obey the warning signs. Deer crossing signs indicate areas that have had a large number of deer vs. car accidents.
Keep your eyes moving back and forth. Continuously sweep your eyes across the road in front of you for signs of animals and movement. Animals may also be alongside the road, so make sure to look to the right and left, as well. While the most likely accident is you hitting an animal, on occasion they might also hit you by running into the side of your car.
Be especially attentive in early morning and evening hours. Many animals, especially deer, are most active from 5-8 AM and 5-8 PM, prime commuting times for many people.
Use high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic. You can spot animals sooner. Sometimes the light reflecting off their eyes will reveal their location.
Always wear a seatbelt. The chances of getting injured when hitting an animal are much higher if you don’t have your seatbelt on. Also never drive drunk, distracted or drowsy.
What to do if you hit a deer on the roadway
Keep your distance if the deer isn’t killed. The animal may recover and move on.
Do not try to move the deer. A frightened and wounded deer can hurt you or further injure itself. It’s best to call 911.
Contact your auto insurance company as soon as possible.
Take pictures to document the crash.