In the United States deer–vehicle collisions lead to about 200 human deaths and $1.1 billion in property damage every year. While some of those incidents included bad endings for turkeys, raccoons and dogs, most were between bumper and deer. At the same time, a lot of those wildlife incursions did not happen in the middle of nowhere, but in suburban communities across the state. Deer remain a problem in areas where hunting is not allowed, so these tend to be residential areas and places where vehicle strikes are more likely. The biggest problem is during the fall rut (mating season), when deer can suddenly dart into roadways at a time when days are getting shorter. For drivers, it could mean big trouble as they commute to and from work. Deer versus car collisions cost about $3,000 per claim for repairs and injuries.
Planning to Avoid Collisions with Deer
- If you spot a deer, slow down and pay attention to possible sudden movement. If the deer doesn’t move, don’t go around it. Wait for the deer to pass and the road is clear.
- Pay attention to “Deer Crossing” signs. Slow down when traveling through areas known to have a high concentration of deer so you will have ample time to stop if necessary.
- If you are traveling after dark, use high beams when there is no oncoming traffic. High beams will be reflected by the eyes of deer on or near roads.
- If you see one deer, be on guard: others may be in the area. Deer typically move in family groups at this time of year and cross-roads single file. Female deer are being chased by bucks and during breeding phase are often unaware of traffic.
- Don’t tailgate. Remember: the driver in front of you might have to stop suddenly to avoid hitting a deer.
- Always wear a seatbelt, as required by law. Drive at a safe and sensible speed, considering weather, available lighting, traffic, curves and other road conditions.
- If a collision appears inevitable, do not swerve to avoid impact. The deer may counter-maneuver suddenly. Brake appropriately but stay in your lane. Collisions are more likely to become fatal when a driver swerves to avoid a deer and instead collides with oncoming traffic or a fixed structure along the road.
- Report any deer-vehicle collision to a local law enforcement agency immediately.
If you have the misfortune to be hit by a deer, here’s what to do:
- Get the car off the roadway but leave your hazard lights on.
- Call the police and get a report filed as you would with any other accident, especially if the animal’s body is blocking traffic, or if there is vehicle or property damage.
- Stay away from a downed deer. They are wild animals and it might be wounded. Flailing legs and hooves can hurt you.
- Check your car. Collision with a full-grown deer might cause damage that makes your car unsafe to drive.
The Bottom Line
The average collision with a deer causes about $3,000 worth of damage. This is no small amount. Sometimes, like in a recent Indiana incident, multiple people are killed or injured. While the odds are in your favor that you won’t hit a deer, don’t dismiss the possibility that this gentle woodland creature might decide to turn itself into a 300-pound boulder rolling without warning across the highway at any moment.