If it seems like you’ve seen more deer on your commute this year, you’re right. Thanks to fewer hunters and natural predators, the deer population has exploded. And so have accident claims related to deer and automobiles.
Claims data and state licensed driver counts from the Federal Highway Administration showed that Pennsylvania was one of the top three states for deer-related collisions, amounting to one in 63 drivers experiencing a deer-related accident. That’s up from 1 in 67 the prior year.
The number of deer-related auto accidents that happen over the course of the year always gets dramatically higher in the fall, primarily in October, November and December. Fall is, after all, deer mating season. Worse still, deer are most active at dawn and dusk, which is just about the time most people make their commutes to and from work once daylight savings time ends and the days start getting shorter.
So, with September in our sights and temperatures about to cool down, it’s time to start preparing for football, crisp weather, pumpkin-spice everything—and deer accident season. What kind of precautions can you take during the fall to avoid making your car part of the harvest?
- Use your high beams at night, whenever possible and appropriate, especially when driving through a wooded area.
- Be a considerate driver by keeping to the speed limit and not speeding past other drivers who may be slowing down to avoid an animal
- Be on alert for deer crossing signs and keep a watchful eye at the edge of the road when you’re in a deer crossing area.
- Don’t drive distracted, and be sure to wear a seatbelt.
- Put on your 4 way flashers to warn other drivers when you see deer lurking at the edge of the road.
- Double check with your insurance agent that you’re covered with Comprehensive Auto Insurance.
What should you do if you encounter a deer in your headlights?
If you have the distance an ability to do it safely, slow down your car. By slowing down, you reduce the risk of damage and injury, and may even be able to stop and pull over before hitting the animal. You can also honk your horn, both to warn other drivers and attempt to scare the deer out of the road.
If you’re unable to safely slow down your car and pull off to the side of the road while you wait for the deer to move, you may be faced with the decision of hitting the deer or trying to avoid it.
Most people’s instinct is to swerve to avoid hitting a deer, because it’s dangerous, no one wants to hurt an animal, and it could mean damage to your vehicle. But the truth of the matter is: it’s way more dangerous and costly to swerve away from a deer than to hit it.
When you swerve your car to miss hitting a deer, it’s extremely likely that you’ll hit something worse. You run the risk of ending up in oncoming traffic and suffer a head-on collision, hitting a stationary object (like a tree, guard rail, or structure), or rolling the car into a ditch.
Hitting a deer is covered under your Comprehensive Auto Insurance, whereas hitting an inanimate object is covered under your Collision Auto Insurance. Collision deductibles and surcharges are generally higher, which means more out of pocket for you when it comes to repairs and getting a tow.
In short, if you can’t pull over in time, your best course of action is, unfortunately, to hit the deer. In the event that you must hit a deer, you should still slow down as much as you can. If you take your foot off the break right before your car makes contact with the animal, the nose of your car will bounce upwards, making it more likely for the deer to fly up and roll over the roof than go through the windshield.
Once you’ve hit the deer, put your hazards on and move your vehicle to a safe location, like the shoulder or a parking lot. At this point, you can call the police to come and have a report written and the animal moved. You should stay in your vehicle with your seatbelt on as you wait. The police report will be important when it comes to filing your insurance claim.
When it comes down to it, the only thing you can control in a situation like this is your reaction. The more you know about how to react to a deer in your headlights, the quicker you’ll be able to make decisions in the moment.
If you do hit a deer, be sure to let your insurance agent know as soon as you can, and if you’re unsure if you’re covered in the event of hitting a deer, contact your Warren Weiss agent at 215-538-1865 to find out more about your policy.