Collisions between automobiles and deer are responsible for approximately 150 fatalities and about $1.1 billion in property damage every year in the USA, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In fall and winter, when the animals mate, they pay less attention to traffic than some drivers. There are active steps drivers can take to greatly reduce their chances of encountering does and bucks, however. Here's a list of common sense do's and don'ts:
Deer are most likely to be seen in exposed areas, such as the grassy area near a road or freeway, about two hours before dawn and two hours after dawn. Of course, you still run a risk of encountering a deer at other hours of the day, but these are peak times.
Deer are commonly found in wooded areas, but that doesn't mean they're exclusive to the north country. According to Car Star, a network of collision repair centers, the top 10 deer danger states are Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, Virginia, Minnesota, Texas, Indiana and South Carolina. Car Star also points out that since migration and mating season occur in the later part of the year, October through December is the most accident-prone for deer-vehicle collisions.
Do as your driving instructor told you: Drive defensively and be ready to take evasive action, including braking suddenly.
“If a deer appears in front of your car, slow down and honk your horn with one long blast to frighten it away,” Carolyn Gorman, Vice President of the Insurance Information Institute, told AOL Autos. Always wear your seatbelt and insist your passengers do as well.
Don't swerve to avoid a deer directly in your path. "Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path, but stay in your lane," says Gorman. "When drivers swerve to avoid a deer, they can hit another vehicle or lose control of their cars."
If you see one deer, it's best to slow down and let the deer continue on his or her path. Keep in mind that deer travel in packs, so if you see one there's a good chance another could be close by.
"Use your high beams when there isn’t any oncoming traffic. It will help to illuminate the animal's eyes so you can spot them sooner," Gorman says. "Also, use the brights to alert drivers in the opposite direction if you spot a deer or herd."
If you have a choice between hitting a animal and swerving into traffic or off the road, hit the animal. It may seem cruel to say, but studies show many crashes happen not only when drivers hit deer, but when they collide with another vehicle in the opposite lane while trying to take evasive action.
Gorman recommends staying clear of an animal you've hit.
"If your vehicle strikes a deer, don’t touch the animal," Gorman said. "A frightened and wounded deer can hurt you or further injure itself. The best procedure is to get your car off the road, if possible, and call the police."
Deer hit and killed by vehicles should be reported to the police, says NHTSA. Motorists are not allowed to keep the animal unless a permit is first obtained from a law-enforcement officer at the scene of the accident.
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