Published On: Tue, Oct 2nd, 2018

Deer in your headlights?

Fall is officially here, and October, November and December are the worst months of the year for motor vehicle collisions with animals.

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.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) reports that in 2017, there were 4,258 crashes involving deer and other animals (an increase of 35) and 15 fatalities, two more than last year. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety data for 2016 shows that Pennsylvania is one of the top states for fatalities resulting from a collision with an animal. The state is tied for second place with Wisconsin.

“Animal-vehicle collisions start to increase in October and peak in mid-November,” said Jana L. Tidwell, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “As the deer population grows and urbanization spreads into formerly rural areas, motorists need to be even more cautious and alert behind the wheel, especially at dawn and dusk, which can be times high of deer activity.”

Here’s a few tips for avoiding deer when you’re behind the wheel:

  • Pay attention to road signs. Yellow, diamond-shaped signs with an image of a deer indicate areas with high levels of deer activity.
  • 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 a.m. and 5-8 p.m. – 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.
  • Slow down, and watch for other deer to appear. Deer rarely travel alone, so if you see one, there are likely to be more nearby.
  • Slow down around curves. It’s harder to spot animals down the road when going around curves.
  • One long blast. A long blast on your horn may frighten animals away from your vehicle.
  • Use brakes if an impact is imminent. Don’t swerve. Instead, stay in your lane. Swerving away from animals can confuse them so they don’t know which way to run. It can also put you in the path of oncoming vehicles or cause you to crash into something like a lamppost or a tree.
  • 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.
  • Consider purchasing comprehensive insurance, if you don’t already have it. Comprehensive insurance is the type of insurance that covers animal strikes.

Are You Covered?

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says that between 2014 and 2017 there were 1,740,425 animal-related insurance claims processed in the United States, and collisions with deer caused the most claims. The actual number of incidents is likely much higher since many drivers do not choose to carry coverage for this type of event.

Collision coverage pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with an object (e.g., a telephone pole, a guard rail, a mailbox), or as a result of flipping over. Comprehensive coverage is for damage to your car covered by disasters “other than collisions,” contacts (in this case, contact/collision with animals) and are paid for under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.

In the event of a collision with an animal, the Pennsylvania State Police recommends:

  • Following the collision, call the police.
  • Avoid making contact with the deer/animal. A frightened or wounded animal can hurt you or further injure itself.
  • Put the vehicle’s hazard lights on; whether it’s light or dark outside.
  • If possible, move the vehicle to a safe location, out of the roadway, and wait for help to arrive. Your safety and the safety of your passengers is most important.
  • Contact your insurance agent or company representative as quickly as possible to report any damage to your car.

About the Author

unclecharlie1@verizon.net'

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  1. Swanw@verizon.net' Wendy Swan says:

    Great article. Good reminder, thanks.

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