Busted bumpers. Bashed grills. Scratches. Dents. Totaled cars.
The most dangerous animal in North America during October, November and December may be a deer, according to insurance and wildlife experts. And we can certainly vouch for that ourselves, as multiple members of our staff have had the misfortune of being involved in such collisions, while those who haven’t can attest to an uptick in the frequency of those accidents on the newsroom scanner during the fall and winter months.
Deer collisions become more frequent during those times due to deer migration and mating season. There are about 1.5 million deer-related accidents annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Those accidents cause 150-200 deaths, 10,000 injuries and and an estimated $1.1 billion in property damage annually, according to NHTSA.
And while Texas dropped out of the top five states for deer-automobile collisions last year, it’s still listed by State Farm as a medium-risk state, with one in every 158 drivers involved in an accident with a deer.
Advances in technology don’t always apply, either. An analysis by Consumer Reports shows 56% of new cars now come with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. But not all systems are designed to recognize large animals.
Now that Daylight Saving Time has ended, motorists are more likely to be going to work and driving home at dusk and dawn, when deer are the most active. You can improve your chances of averting a deer collision by following these tips:
■ Always wear your seat belt.
■ Be extra careful when driving in areas known to have many deer. Deer crossing signs are there for a reason. It’s important to always be aware that deer mostly move in packs, and that when you spot one deer, it is likely that there are “friends” nearby. Deer can be active any time of the day but typically are most active at dawn and dusk.
■ Use high beams at night unless there is oncoming traffic. High-beam headlights increase your vision and will increase your time to react to a deer lurking along the side of the road.
■ Don’t rely on deer whistles. These are aftermarket devices that some drivers put on their front bumpers to scare off animals. But animal behavior remains unpredictable.
■ Do not swerve if you see a deer. The leading cause of accidents, injuries and deaths from deer-related accidents is when vehicles swerve in an attempt to avoid hitting a deer. Swerving can result in vehicles moving into oncoming traffic, crashing into trees and other objects, or even rolling over. While it may be against a driver’s first instinct, the safest thing to do is slow down as much as possible and let your vehicle strike the deer.
Sometimes an accident is unavoidable no matter how careful you are, and deer can dash out from cover with no warning, giving you no chance to stop. If you hit a deer, you should do the following:
■ Move your vehicle off the road and turn on your hazard lights. Call the police. If possible, take pictures of the scene and any injuries to passengers or damage to the vehicle, for insurance purposes.
■ If the animal runs away after the accident, get a picture of hair or blood on the car to show that a deer was involved. Use this evidence to have the accident processed under comprehensive coverage.
■ Get contact information from any witnesses, especially if the animal runs off. If witnesses are able to wait, ask them to report what they saw to the police.
■ Even if you think the damage is minimal, check to be sure your vehicle is safe to drive. Look for tire damage, broken lights, fluid leaks or loose parts. You may need to call a tow truck.
■ Do not approach the deer, even if you think it’s dead. A wounded animal could injure you.
A deer in the headlights is a frightening sight, and the damage that hitting a deer can cause to you and your vehicle is even more terrifying. We should all stay mindful that deer are on the move this time of year as we drive through the Texas Forest Country.