Deer Hazard: What Drivers Need to Know About Collisions and Insurance
Whether you're snaking down a windy road or zipping along the highway, there's little that can make a driver's heart jump more than spotting a deer in the roadway ahead. It's fall, and October through December are peak deer migration season. For drivers, that means staying alert to what's happening far down the road and knowing how to respond if you wind up in an accident with wildlife.
Does insurance cover hitting a deer? What else do you need to know? Keep reading to learn more.
Deer traffic collisions are far too common
According to the Insurance Information Institute, drivers in the U.S. are involved in more than 1.5 million traffic crashes involving deer every year. Those accidents lead to at least $1 billion in vehicle damage and hundreds of annual deaths.
Deer populations vary by location, so it's a good idea to be especially aware if you're driving in an area with the ubiquitous deer crossing signs or anywhere else you suspect deer may enter the roadway. According to the California Department of Transportation, you should be on the lookout for deer during the spring and fall migration seasons. The fall mating season is particularly hazardous for drivers.
The Insurance Information Institute reports that in 2021 the top five states for the likelihood of auto insurance claims from a collision with an animal are West Virginia, Montana, South Dakota, Michigan and Pennsylvania. But you should be aware of animals on the road when driving anywhere.
Avoiding a deer on the road
One of the best ways to avoid hitting a deer on the road is to slow down, particularly if you have limited visibility, it's wet outside, or you're driving in winter conditions. Follow these tips to stay safe when driving in areas with deer.
- Drive slowly: Slowing down gives you more time to react if a deer shows up on the road. If you already see a deer, slow WAY down when passing, as the animal may be unpredictable.
- Watch for multiple deer: Deer are pack animals, so there's a good chance you'll see several deer where you've spotted one already.
- Stay alert at dawn and dusk: Deer are most active at dusk and dawn, times of the day when visibility may be more limited.
- Move toward the center lanes: Deer are more likely to be spotted on the side of a roadway than center lanes (fast lanes). If it's safe and allowed by local regulations, drive as close as you can to the middle of the road to avoid surprise deer encounters.
- Honk to scare deer out of the road: If you see a deer on the road, it's okay to give your horn a little honk to scare the deer away. It's better to make the noise than leave them in a roadway where you or someone else may have an accident. If you shine your headlights, the deer might get startled and blinded and actually stay put where they are (strange, but true).
What to do if you hit a deer
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having hit a deer, don't panic. Pull to the side of the road and treat it like any other accident. If anyone's injured, call 911 for the fastest emergency response.
Even if it appears deceased, stay away from the deer as it could still be alive and confused or injured. Approaching the deer could lead to further injury to you or the deer. Contact local wildlife authorities or law enforcement, and let them know exactly where the deer is located. It's especially important to tell them if it's in a dangerous place on the roadway.
Take note of any damage to your vehicle, contact your auto insurance company to tell them about the accident and file a claim, if necessary. If you hit a deer, your auto insurance should help you cover the costs. Once you meet your deductible, your insurance policy pays for eligible repairs up to the policy limit. Check with your agent to make sure your policy covers accidents with deer.
Stay focused and alert behind the wheel
Driving a car, truck, or van is a significant responsibility that you shouldn't take lightly. Whether you're commuting to work, out running errands, enjoying a leisurely drive or off on an exciting cross-country road trip, it's essential to stay focused and alert at all times. Paying close attention to driving not only helps you spot wildlife, but also pedestrians, construction sites and unexpected objects in the roadway.
When you drive with care and keep a lookout for deer and other hazards, you should be on track for a safe arrival anywhere you're headed. And if you do run into trouble along the way, rest easy knowing your insurance company is standing by to help.