Be Alert, and Don't Veer for Deer

Oct 30, 2017

Drivers regularly see deer crossing signs on the side of the road. But do you really increase alertness when you see them? You should, especially in fall and winter. Mating and migration season—October through December—more than doubles the likelihood of a collision with a large animal.

State Farm conducts an annual deer claim study each year to help determine the potential likelihood of a driver hitting a large animal like deer, elk, moose or caribou, and certain states experience more collisions with these animals than others. According to State Farm’s annual statistics, the states with the highest likelihood of accidents are:

  1. West Virginia
  2. Montana
  3. Pennsylvania
  4. Iowa
  5. Wisconsin
  6. South Dakota
  7. Minnesota
  8. Wyoming
  9. Michigan
  10. North Dakota

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are an estimated 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions annually in the United States, causing more than 150 fatalities and resulting in more than $1 billion in vehicle damage.

The costs of animal strike accidents, however, are far less significant than the costs associated with accidents caused by trying to avoid an accident.

If you are left with no safe options to avoid an animal collision, hit the animal. Do not swerve. It goes against human nature, but it’s safer to hit the animal, keep control of your vehicle and accept the damages. Do everything reasonable to avoid a collision, but don’t swerve out of your lane or leave the roadway. You can do more damage to yourself and your vehicle by driving off the road or into other traffic than if you just hit the animal. Driving onto a soft shoulder is a sure way to lose control or rollover.

There are a number of precautions that drivers can take to help prevent accidents with deer. To avoid an accident, you should:

  • Pay attention, particularly if you are driving between 6 and 9 p.m. because this is when the most accidents happen. You cannot see deer if you are not looking for them.

  • Reduce distractions. Ruan’s corporate policy restricts cell phone use while the vehicle is in motion. This is a good practice for any vehicle you drive. Put away your phone and turn down the radio as this can be a distraction. 

  • Always wear your seatbelt, and require any passengers in the vehicle with you to do the same.

  • Slow down. Your chances are better for stopping before hitting the animal at slower speeds.

  • Stop and wait for the deer. If there is a deer in or near the road in front of your vehicle, it will eventually move away. If it does not move, honk your horn and turn on your hazard flashers to startle the animal.

  • If you cannot avoid the collision, slow down and hit the deer head-on. Do not swerve around the deer; you could flip your vehicle and/or trailer, drive off an embankment or hit an oncoming vehicle.

After hitting an animal, get to the side of the road as soon as you safely can and stop your vehicle while being mindful of traffic that may have been following you—they may be dealing with the remains of the animal strike that ended up in their path. Turn on your emergency flashers and exit your vehicle to assess the damage only after you are sure there is no risk of being struck by other traffic. If you hit an animal, do not touch it. If it’s alive, it may be dangerous.

By being alert and paying attention to your surroundings, you can significantly reduce your risk of an animal strike.