Deer-vehicle crashes: How to avoid a costly collision

OKLAHOMA CITY - Deer-vehicle crashes are on the rise, according to AAA Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

"Deer are on the move now seeking new food sources and secure shelter as summer crops are harvested and leaves fall, said Kelly Adams," Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Typically, the greatest number of deer-vehicle crashes occur in mid-November when the rut, or mating season, peaks.”

186 vehicle crashes reported in 2017 were deer-related, meaning they were crashes in which a deer and vehicle actually collided or the presence of a deer was a contributing circumstance, according to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office.

“In addition to injuries and loss of life, deer collisions often cause significant vehicle damage that can lead to large expenses for the vehicle owner if not properly insured,” said Leslie Gamble, public and government affairs manager for AAA Oklahoma. “Of the animal strikes reported by AAA Insurance policy holders in 2017, the average cost per claim was more than $4,500.”

Here are some tips from AAA Oklahoma on how drivers can be prepared.

Be insurance prepared:

Purchase comprehensive coverage as part of your insurance policy or check with your insurance agent to make sure you have it. Vehicle damage due to collisions with animals is included in comprehensive coverage. Unfortunately, many drivers don’t and will have to pay out-of-pocket for repairs in a deer-vehicle wreck. Collision coverage pays for damage to your car from a collision only with an object (such as a telephone pole, a guard rail, a mailbox), or as a result of flipping over.

Be driving prepared:

  • Always wear a seat belt. The chances of getting injured when hitting an animal are much higher if you don’t have your seatbelt on.
  • Be especially attentive in early morning and evening hours. Many animals, especially deer, are most active from 5-8 a.m. and 5-8 p.m. – prime commuting times for many people.
  • Pay attention to road signs. Yellow, diamond-shaped signs with an image of a deer indicate areas with high levels of deer activity.
  • Keep your eyes moving back and forth. Continuously sweep your eyes across the road in front of you for signs of animals and movement. Animals may also be alongside the road, so make sure to look to the right and left, as well.
  • Use high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic. You can 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 you see one, there are likely to be more nearby.
  • One long blast. A long blast on your horn may frighten animals away from your vehicle.
  • Use brakes if an impact is imminent. Don’t swerve. Instead, stay in your lane. Swerving away from animals can confuse them so they don’t know which way to run.

Be crash prepared:

  • Move your vehicle off the roadway to the shoulder, if possible, and call for law enforcement at *55. Make sure you tell the dispatcher if the animal or your vehicle is still in the road.
  • Do not try to move the animal. An injured deer might panic and seriously injure you. Law enforcement or animal control officials can remove the animal from the road when they arrive.
  • If possible, move the vehicle to a safe location, off the roadway, and wait for help to arrive. Turn on your hazard lights.
  • If in a congested area, stay inside the car with seat belts on to avoid injuries from secondary crashes. Do not stand near your vehicle – especially between your car and another one. Watch for approaching traffic.
  • Take pictures to document the crash once the scene is secured from traffic.
  • Contact your insurance company as soon as possible.