Look out for deer while driving this fall

Published 6:16 pm Thursday, November 5, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

It’s that time of year when drivers should prepare for the added dangers of sharing Virginia’s roadways with deer.

Deer migration and mating season occurs from October through December, and the animals’ increased presence near roads often leads to an increase in collisions. The frequency of these collisions usually peaks in November and December.

Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. claims data from 2019 revealed 48% of all deer-related auto insurance claims occurred in the fall, with the highest number of incidents in November.

There were 448 collisions with deer in October, 668 in November and 657 in December, accounting for $4.8 million in losses. In total, VFBMIC received 3,651 deer-related claims in 2019, up nearly 25% from 2,923 in 2018.

Current data suggests collisions have slowed this fall, as VFBMIC has received just 269 deer claims through Oct. 27.

Laurie Gannon, VFBMIC vice president of claims, noted fewer collisions are an industry-wide trend due to the COVID-19 pandemic limiting travel.

“The number of collisions may be down, but that doesn’t mean drivers should turn a blind eye to the dangers deer can cause,” Gannon said. “Accidents involving deer can be very costly and cause serious bodily harm, so it’s important that motorists remain mindful of these hazards and continue to drive safely.”

To minimize the risk of striking a deer, motorists are encouraged to drive slowly and be aware of their surroundings. Driving slowly can help increase reaction time and can potentially reduce vehicle damage caused by a collision.

Deer are most active at dawn and from dusk until midnight, and are often seen on roads that divide agricultural land and wooded areas. Deer crossing signs are posted in high-traffic areas to alert drivers to the presence of deer.

Drivers should focus their peripheral vision on the shoulders of roads, watching for movement that might indicate deer are nearby. Using high-beam headlights can help increase a driver’s range of vision when traveling at night.

If a deer runs or jumps across the road in front of you, slow down immediately as others may be following behind. Brake firmly, keep your vehicle straight, and do not swerve—swerving can cause collisions with other vehicles or cause drivers to lose control of their cars.

In the event of a collision, remove your car from the road if possible, and notify the police. Once safe, contact your insurance agent to report any damage.