Experts: Motorists should keep eyes open for deer

Published 9:17 am Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Motorists should be wary of deer this season, as deer-auto crashes are up 31.8 percent since 2003, according to State Farm Insurance.

State Farm estimates that 54,135 Virginia drivers — one in 123 — hit deer during the last half of 2007 and the first half of 2008. The state ranks eighth in that category nationwide. Annually nationwide, there are 1.5 million deer-auto accidents, according to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety statistics.

The company releases those statistics annually and bases them on deer accident claims and vehicle registrations.

“We want Virginia’s drivers to be aware of the potential of deer crashes during the months of October, November and December and provide them with the information that will aid them in the prevention of such a crash occurring” Janet Brooking, Executive Director of Drive Smart Virginia, said in a press release.

“These deer, both male and female, are very unaware of vehicles on the roadways when their animal instincts come into play. During this time of year, their movements increase and you should be on high alert during dusk and early evening and pre-dawn to mid-morning.”

Brooking said drivers should remember that deer roam in herds, so if you see one, others may be close by.

Here are tips that motorists should remember:

n Be aware of posted deer crossing signs. These are placed in active deer crossing areas.

n Remember that deer are most active between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

n Do not rely on car-mounted deer whistles. They don’t work.

n Drivers should keep their headlights on high beam unless they are meeting another vehicle and keep an ever watchful eye on the edges of the woods and fields next to the highway.

n If a deer is seen entering your vehicle’s path, apply brakes without locking the brakes. You can lose traction and control if you lock-up or slide the tires. This is not a problem for some late model vehicles, which have anti-lock brakes.

n Do not swerve to miss a deer. You could lose control of your vehicle, strike a tree or ditch bank and overturn, or strike another vehicle. Fatal crashes or injuries during crashes are rare when just a deer is struck.

If you strike a deer, you should contact law enforcement as soon as possible if the damage to your vehicle is more than $1,000.

A vehicle crash report is required to be submitted to the Department of Motor Vehicles under these circumstances.

The deer must be tagged and the driver may keep the deer if so desired. Contacting law enforcement also helps with the notification of the Department of Transportation for disposal of the deer.