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Deer-Car Collisions: When You Hit the Road, Make Sure it Doesn’t Hit Back

Oct 23, 2013 03:24PM ● By Cate Reynolds
October through December is mating season for deer, a time when incidents of auto-deer collisions traditionally escalate. That rise is in addition to the overall increase in deer/auto incidents…up 21 percent in the last five years, even though the number of miles driven by U.S. motorists has increased only two percent. It is estimated that there are approximately one million deer/car collisions a year. And the woodsy environs of our area are especially vulnerable.

Image titleWest Virginia leads the nation in occurrences. State Farm Insurance calculates the chances of a West Virginia driver striking a deer over the next 12 months at 1 in 42. Marylanders have a 1 in 119, Virginians 1 in 102, and Pennsylvanians a 1 in 85 chance. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, deer vehicle collisions cause approximately 200 human fatalities in the U.S. each year. The average property damage cost is $3,103.

The insurance industry has published a list of tips on how to reduce the changes of a deer-vehicle collision:

• Be aware of posted deer crossing signs. These are placed in active deer crossing areas.

• Remember that deer are most active between 6 and 9 p.m.

• Use high beam headlamps as much as possible at night to illuminate the areas from which deer will enter the roadways.

• Keep in mind that deer generally travel in herds—if you see one, there is a strong possibility others are nearby.

• Do not rely on car-mounted deer whistles.

• If a deer collision seems inevitable, attempting to swerve out of the way could cause you to lose control of your vehicle or place you in the path of an oncoming vehicle.

Additionally, we’d like to add three points of our own: keep your speed down, stay vigilant, and always wear your seatbelt.

There is some controversy, however, concerning what you should do if you can’t avoid hitting the deer. The advice above about not swerving sounds reasonable. But what happens after that? Some say you should not brake because this will cause the front end of your vehicle to point down and make it easier for the deer to fly into your windshield. Others say decreasing your speed is always a good thing. Seems to us that there are too many variables (such as size and type of vehicle, speed of the vehicle, size of the deer, and road conditions, etc.) to make the no-brake statement universally acceptable.
—Sarah Hagerty