Learn How to Avoid Deer Collisions and What To Do if it Happens

Picture this. You are driving home from work, groggy and not paying much attention, since you’re in a rural area and you’re always the only one on the road. How to Avoid Deer Collisions, TJ Woods Insurance, Worcester, MAOut of nowhere, a deer leaps out into the street, and before you have time to swerve, a heavy thump hits your car and your windshield spiders.

Hitting a deer can prove to be a dangerous and traumatizing event, perhaps even fatal for at least one of the parties involved. Therefore, it is of extreme importance to learn how to avoid deer collisions and know what to do should the situation arise.

If you think you might be seeing more deer in the road this month, this is not simply a coincidence… you are correct. The deer’s mating schedule raises the rate at which deer collisions occur. May and June are a deer’s most active mating time. Does play hard-to-get, which often results in a wild chase, and deer will cross into the road without looking both ways. The risk of deer collisions is much higher during these months, so it is important to be extra careful when driving to avoid deer collisions.

The following excerpts from Consumer Insurance Guide offer advice on how to avoid deer collisions—how to react and what to do about your auto insurance if a crash occurs. Especially if you are a frequent traveler of heavily wooded areas, you should learn how to avoid deer collisions at all costs.

To avoid deer collisions, stay alert and know how to react

When deer and vehicles collide the results can be fatal and not just for the deer. Even trying to avoid hitting one can result in an accident if not handled correctly.

A mature buck can weigh 200 pounds or more and cause major damage and injuries, but so could hitting a tree or rolling a car while trying to steer clear of an encounter.

Deer collisions can happen any time of year but spike tremendously during the fall mating season when bucks have just one thing on their minds—and it’s not looking out for traffic.

There are more than 1.6 million deer and vehicle collisions in the U.S. each year resulting in around 200 fatalities, tens of thousands of injuries and billions in vehicle damage and related injuries, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Collision vs. comprehensive

When it comes to filing an insurance claim, many drivers could be surprised to discover that deer collisions are not covered under a collision policy. All drivers are required to carry liability insurance, which covers damage to other vehicles or people, but collision and comprehensive insurance are both optional.

Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I. says damage from hitting an animal falls under a comprehensive insurance policy. It also covers almost anything that could go wrong with a vehicle apart from an actual collision, such as fire, theft, vandalism or falling trees.

Hitting a tree would fall under a driver’s collision coverage if they have it, Salvatore says.

In deciding what coverage to get, Salvatore says drivers should consider whether it’s cost-effective for them. Someone financing a new car would likely be required to have comprehensive coverage.

“Quite frankly if you have an old car it might not be cost-effective to buy comprehensive and collision coverage. You have to look at what is the cost of the car and the cost of the insurance and then make a decision in terms of what would make sense for you,” Salvatore says. “Look at how much you’re paying in insurance versus how much you’d get back if you had a total loss, taking into account the deductible.”

How to react

Litchfield says looking out for deer means more than just watching the road ahead. He says drivers should look to the sides and continuously scan back and forth. Deer approaching the roadway are the ones drivers are more likely to miss with their eyes and wind up hitting with their cars.

If following another car on the highway, drivers can use the other car’s headlights to watch the sides of the road ahead.  Litchfield says using high beams if there’s no other traffic is a good idea, but if a deer is spotted drivers should drop to their low beams and start braking immediately. The old adage about “a deer in the headlights” freezing in place is true.

“One of the things that seems to baffle any deer is when it’s about dark or pitch dark and they get hit by bright lights, that seems to disorient them,” Litchfield says. “When I spot a deer I tend to drop down to low beams just to give the deer a chance to see too.”

How drivers should react to an encounter depends in part on the location. On a wide-open road with several lanes and a shoulder, Van Tassel says drivers should brake aggressively and might be able to use the full width of the road to steer around the deer.

A narrow two-lane road without shoulders is much riskier, as it gives little room to maneuver and it’s less likely to have a paved shoulder. There’s much less room to maneuver and a driver could wind up leaving the roadway.

In this case, Van Tassel recommends hitting the brakes and keeping the steering wheel straight. He says drivers would be much better off hitting a deer head-on than risk hitting a fixed object, such as tree.

It’s also preferable to a rollover or a side impact, as most of a car’s safety systems are designed for a front-end collision. Van Tassel says it takes advanced training to successfully make aggressive moves at highway speed because people have a tendency to oversteer.

“You could far more easily find yourself driving into a ditch, into a tree or perhaps worst of all rolling the car over and that’s not all that uncommon when we see abrupt aggressive steering on narrow roads, there’s just not enough pavement there side-to-side to allow drivers to do that,” Van Tassel says.

Litchfield does not recommend hitting the horn when there’s deer along the road, as it could startle them and cause an accident. He says deer are attracted to road right-of-ways as a source of food, particularly in the spring when they’re the first areas to turn green.

The only time he recommends using the horn would be giving a short beep if there’s a deer standing in the road and the driver has already slowed down.

Litchfield says he once hit a deer while driving near an open woodland area. A doe crossed the road in front of him and he looked to see if there were others following behind but didn’t see any, so he turned his gaze back to the doe.

“I was slowing down the whole time, so I turned to look at the deer because I like deer. I was looking at her and when my eyes came back to the roadway there was a deer trying as hard as it could to run in front of me,” Litchfield says. “If I was just looking at the road I could’ve easily seen that deer coming and stopped and not hit it.”

It is important to note that if you swerve to avoid deer collisions and the car hits something else, this will be filed under your collision rather than comprehensive insurance. This is just another reason to avoid swerving in the instance of deer collisions, and simply brake while keeping the wheel straight.

Those who live in rural areas should consider a more comprehensive type of car insurance in case a deer collision does occur. If you are involved in a deer collision, there is a high chance that it will be an expensive amount of damage to your vehicle. Depending on the age and quality of your automobile, it may be best to have comprehensive insurance added to your plan. To learn more about the different types of auto insurance available to you, please contact TJ Woods Insurance Agency, Inc. in Worcester, MA. We would be happy to help find you the right insurance should you find yourself unable to avoid deer collisions.

Have you ever been involved in a deer collision? What advice would you give on how to avoid deer collisions?