When a deer darts out in front of your moving car, it can be a frightening experience. Often in dark or low-light conditions, these animals leap from seemingly nowhere and you slam on the brakes or swerve to avoid an accident. All the while, your heart feels like it jumped out of your chest and you’re hoping you don’t hit property or another motorist.
Although crashes involving wildlife are possible year-round, they tend to increase from October through December. In the eastern part of the United States, these dates coincide with mating season for deer and you’re likely to spot more of them in the road and on your property.
Despite these trends, not all drivers take the time and care to watch out for deer. Insurance claims during the fall season reflect this shift. According to State Farm, the number of insurance claims involving animals increase during these months and the accidents become more severe.
A Confluence of Factors
Multiple aspects heighten the likelihood a driver will encounter or hit a deer. Less daylight decreases visibility during the peak hours when deer are active: 6 pm to 9 pm and at dawn.
These few months also mark breeding season for the deer population, coinciding with cold weather. In turn, more deer will be exploring and searching for mates, particularly in rural areas, and often remain out during daylight hours.
Using data from July 2018 to June 2019, State Farm calculated that nationally, one in every 116 drivers files a claim concerning an accident with an animal. However, these types of accidents go beyond insurance and may result in serious injuries or fatalities.
The IIHS also found that 190 Americans were killed in animal-related crashes. In 126 of these instances, the driver directly hit the animal, while the remaining 64 resulted in hitting a stationary object or rolling over.
In Connecticut specifically, statistics from the UCONN Crash Data Repository show 208 deer crashes occurred in 2018.
How to Reduce Your Risks
Studies have shown that deer crossing signs don’t help lower accident risks. Instead, safety comes down to awareness and drivers reminding themselves of potential crash risks:
- At dawn and dusk, travel at a slower speed and keep an eye out for deer by the road. Pay close attention near fields, a wooded area, waterway or fencerow.
- If you spot one deer trying to cross a road, realize they travel in groups and more may follow. Wait until the road looks completely clear.
- Note areas where you’ve spotted deer in the past and slow down, especially from 6 – 9 pm.
- When appropriate, use your high beams when driving at night for greater visibility of your surroundings.
- Always assume a deer will dart out in front of you, slow down when you spot one. Never assume the deer will stop and return to the woods.
- Take it slow around turns and curved portions of the road, as deer may not be visible.
- Avoid using your horn, except to alert other drivers. Loud noises may confuse a deer and cause erratic behavior.
- If you see a deer crossing sign, always be prepared to respond. Make sure your seatbelt is on securely and correctly. Per IIHS data, among animal-related crashes, 60 percent of fatalities involve drivers or passengers not wearing a seatbelt.
- Avoid swerving or slamming on your brakes when you see a deer, as this could lead to a more serious crash. Slow down if you can and flash your headlights.
- If you hit a deer, first check on everyone in the vehicle. Next, apply your vehicle’s emergency lights and call 9-1-1.
- Never attempt to move a dead or injured deer from the road.
Keep these tips in mind as you drive throughout the deer season. For more safety information, visit our Facebook page!