October 14, 2020 — With state motorists hitting the road for fall break and remote areas as a COVID-19 precaution, AAA is warning drivers to especially watch for deer. Deer mating season is beginning, with October, November and December the most dangerous months in Oklahoma for motor vehicle collisions with animals. A collision with a deer or other animal can put a serious dent in a vehicle, if not destroy it completely, and possibly result in serious injuries or fatalities.
“Animal-related vehicle collisions start to increase in October and peak in mid-November,” said Leslie Gamble, public and government affairs manager, AAA Oklahoma. “For that reason, motorists need to be even more cautious and alert behind the wheel, especially at dawn and dusk, when deer activity is often at its peak.”
According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, 711 crashes involved deer on Oklahoma roadways in 2019. Two people died and nine were seriously injured in these collisions. Although striking a deer during this season is a common reason for crashes, drivers swerving—in an attempt to miss the deer—is another very common cause. This can be a fatal mistake because the driver may hit an oncoming motorist head-on.
“Deer and other animals can be unpredictable and might dash out in front of your vehicle. But there are actions you can take to help prevent a crash or reduce the damage from an animal collision,” says Gamble. “First and foremost, drivers and passengers should always wear a seat belt and take steps to avoid distractions behind the wheel.”
A Costly Crash―Are You Covered?
According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, there are typically more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in 150 fatalities and tens of thousands of injuries. Crashes involving deer can pose great risk to motorists, but even a crash in which no one is injured can be costly.
Drivers are advised to make sure they know how much coverage they carry in the event of a crash.
Collision coverage pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with an object (e.g., a telephone pole, a guard rail, a mailbox), or as a result of flipping over.
Comprehensive coverage is for damage to your car covered by disasters “other than collisions,” contacts (in this case, contact/collision with animals) and are paid for under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.
In the event of a deer/animal collision, AAA Insurance recommends:
- Call the police.
- Avoid making contact with the deer/animal. A frightened and wounded animal can be dangerous and pose a threat when approached or might further injure itself.
- Activate the vehicle’s hazard lights whether it’s light or dark outside.
- If possible, move the vehicle to a safe location, out of the roadway, and wait for help to arrive.
- Drivers should contact their insurance agent or company representative as quickly as possible to report any vehicle damage.
AAA offers these safety tips to help motorists avoid a crash or possibly reduce damage caused by vehicle/animal collisions:
- Pay attention to road signs. Yellow, diamond-shaped signs with an image of a deer indicate areas with high levels of deer activity.
- Don’t drive distracted. Continually scan roadways. Drivers should continuously sweep their eyes across the road in front of the vehicle looking for signs of animals and movement. Animals may also travel alongside the road, so make sure to look along both sides of the roadway, as well. While the most likely crash happens when vehicles strike an animal, occasionally the animal may run into the vehicle.
- Be especially attentive in early morning and evening hours. Many wild animals, especially deer, are most active from 5-8 a.m. and 5-8 p.m.—prime commuting hours for many people.
- Use high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic. When it’s safe to do so, use your high beams to spot animals sooner. Sometimes the light reflecting off their eyes will reveal their location.
- Slow down, and watch for other deer to appear. Deer rarely travel alone, so if drivers see one, there are likely to be more nearby.
- Slow down around curves. It’s harder to spot animals when going around curves and visibility for what lies in the road ahead is diminished.
- One long blast. A long blast of a horn may frighten animals away from the vehicle.
- Resist the urge to swerve. Instead, drivers need to concentrate on keeping the vehicle in the marked lanes of travel with both hands firmly on the wheel. Swerving away from animals may place drivers in the path of oncoming vehicles or result in a crash with something along the roadway, like a lamppost or a tree.
- If the deer collision crash is imminent, take your foot off the brake. During hard braking, the front end of the vehicle is pulled downward which can cause the animal to travel up over the hood towards the windshield. Letting off the brake can protect drivers from windshield strikes because the animal is more likely to be pushed to one side of the vehicle or over the top of the vehicle.
- Always wear a seatbelt. Also, never drive impaired, distracted or drowsy.
- Consider purchasing comprehensive insurance, if your don’t already have it. Comprehensive insurance is the type of insurance that covers animal strikes.