Deer collision peak season is typically during October, November, and December. It is the time when the largest number of vehicle-deer collisions occur. Specifically, November is the most likely month of the year for these collisions. Data indicates that more than 3,638 deer collisions occurred in Virginia in 2016 than in 2015. In 2012 (the latest data available) there were an estimated 1.23 million deer related accidents in a one-year period.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), four percent of motor vehicle collisions on U.S. roadways in 2000 involved striking a large animal, primarily a deer. Each year, CDC estimates, 200 people die in these collisions. (Oct 1, 2013)
According to a ranking made by State Farm Insurance Company, Virginia ranks 13th in the US for the number of deer collisions each year. The state with the largest number of deer collisions is West Virginia. West Virginia drivers have a 1 in 41 chance of colliding with a deer, elk or moose. This is important information for drivers in Southwest Virginia, particularly in the counties that border West Virginia. It is also important for any drivers who visit West Virginia during the fall months.
According to State Farm’s data for 2015-2016, the average cost per claim for damages incurred during a deer collision was $3,995.
The primary reasons the last quarter of the year is particularly dangerous for drivers are that (1) winter is approaching and the deer are foraging in preparation for winter; and (2) this is mating season, when deer behavior is erratic.
Virginia Department of Transportation has tested special fencing in some counties. The fencing is placed along highways where deer are likely to cross the roadway to direct the deer to underpasses or other safe places to cross. Several of these tests have had significant results.
What You Can Do
To help you to reduce the likelihood of a deer collision this year, we have collected the best advice from a range of sources.
- When driving between dusk and dawn, remain particularly alert for deer.
- Particularly in the fall, if you see one deer, look for others. They tend to travel in groups.
- If a deer crosses the road in front of you, slow down and look around for others.
- Deer tend to remain in the same areas. The department of transportation and the department of game and inland fisheries have identified a large number of places where deer habitually cross roads. They have placed warning signs along the roadways. Always observe these warnings.
- Never swerve out of your lane on any road to avoid hitting a deer. The risk of harm is far greater if you collide with another vehicle or a stationary object that if you hit a deer. It is fine to use your brakes and stop to avoid a collision.
- When driving at night, use your high beam lights unless there is a vehicle approaching you. This will help you to see deer approaching the roadway.
- Deer whistles are aggressively marketed in many locations. Before you purchase and install one, do your homework about their effectiveness. Another caution is that you should not allow yourself to begin to feel so secure that you are not as alert as you should be.
- Be alert for the glint of reflected light from a deer’s eyes. Often the reflection will appear red. (Hence the reminder, “if you see red, don’t move ahead.”)
- Always wear seat belts and place children in appropriate child safety seats.
- One county sheriff advised: if you suddenly spot deer in the road and a crash is unavoidable, hit the deer without stepping on the brakes – especially if you are driving a sedan. “Slamming the brakes might be a natural reaction but it will cause the front end of the vehicle to sink lower to the ground. In a sedan, this increases the likelihood that a deer will crash through the windshield.”
- Never drive impaired or distracted.
- If you hit a deer, call 911, and pull to the side of the road to avoid being rear-ended. Then, call your insurance company.
Deer are graceful and beautiful animals. They can be very dangerous to drivers and passengers. We hope these tips and facts will help you to be a safe driver this fall.