Deer can be seemingly adorable and gentle. Still, the truth is that these animals are responsible for around 1.5 million traffic accidents and more than one billion dollars in damages to vehicles each year. Deer vs. car accidents always increase from October-December as they are more active. With the addition of Thanksgiving travel, it’s important to be aware of the danger deer pose and to drive defensively. Over 55 million people are expected to be traveling away from home on Thursday making it the 2nd busiest travel day since 2000 according to AAA.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has stated that deer-related road accidents result in roughly 200 fatalities and 10,000 serious injuries annually.
How to Avoid Striking a Deer on the Road
Here are a few tips on how to prevent striking a deer on the road.
- Check the season.
Deer are more active during the fall, which is why more deer-related auto accidents occur from October to December than the rest of the year.
- Understand herd mentality.
Deer travel in groups, so if you see one, look out for more that may be close by.
- Watch for deer crossing signs.
If you are driving in deer country, you are likely to see Deer Crossing warning signs. Some of these signs include a sensor that flashes a beacon when deer movement is detected. Pay attention and slow down when you see these signs. If you are driving on a road with several lanes and little traffic, stay on the inner lane to avoid hitting grazing deer.
- Drive carefully.
Drive within the speed limit. The slower you go, the more time you will have to see and react to a crossing deer.
- Stay alert at all times, especially at dusk and dawn.
Most crashes happen an hour after sunset. Dawn and dusk are also the times when roads are damp or wet. Poor visibility and poor road conditions mean you need more time to stop your vehicle. Animals tend to be more active at night, so stay alert and be extra cautious. Switch to high beams if there are no other vehicles present so you can easily spot wildlife.
- Buckle up.
Seatbelts won’t stop a collision, but they can prevent injuries and even save your life in the event of an accident.
- Avoid distractions.
Your best defense against a crash is to stay focused while driving. Do not text or talk on the phone. Keep your eyes on the road and avoid distractions from other passengers.
What You Should Do If You See a Deer on the Road
If you spot a deer, slow down, switch to low beams, and scan the roadside for other shiny eyes. Do not flash your high-beam headlights or honk your horn as these could cause deer to freeze.
If a deer freezes in front of your car, hit the brakes and stay in your lane. Grip the steering wheel firmly, so you do not swerve carelessly around the animal.
If the road is slippery and you do not have an anti-lock brake system (ABS), let go of the brake and steer in the direction of the skid. Once you have control of the vehicle, try to brake again.
What To Do After a Crash
- If you hit a deer, stay calm.
- Call emergency services immediately if someone is injured or if the deer is blocking traffic.
- Try to move your vehicle to the shoulder of the road and turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers.
- Check your car for leaking fluid, damaged lights, or loose parts. Call a tow truck if you are unable to move your vehicle.
- Report the accident to local or state police and take pictures of the scene as well as damage to your vehicle for insurance purposes.
Deer-Related Auto Accidents Can Be Costly
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), deer-related auto accidents cost more than $3 billion nationwide. If you hit a deer on the road, expect to pay around $3,000 in damages.
Check your coverage. If your policy only has collision or liability coverage, your insurance provider will not cover damages to your vehicle resulting from hitting a deer. Ask your agent how to add comprehensive coverage to your policy to make sure that your car is covered. When filing a claim for a deer-related accident, you still need to pay a deductible even if you have comprehensive coverage.
Our Lansing auto accident attorneys at The Clark Law Office are experts at dealing with Michigan car accidents, including deer-vehicle collisions. If you have been involved in a deer-related auto accident, we can help ensure that you receive the appropriate compensation in accordance with Michigan law.