EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is some very good advice from AAA Mid-Atlantic regarding deer strikes. Last year, I was among the statistics. In the early part of 2018, my vehicle was totaled in a deer collision on Swamp Road in Newtown Township. Then in October, my new used car was struck by a deer bolting from the woods on Worthington Mill Road in Northampton Township. The damage was $2,500, which was covered by comprehensive. I was out $500 (my deductible). I purchased deer whistles and installed them on my car. I can't tell you if they work or not, but at least it gives me a little peace of mine. Please read the following carefully and keep a watchful eye out.
PHILADELPHIA >> Fall is officially here and AAA Mid-Atlantic is warning drivers to look out for deer on the roads.
October, November and December are the worst months of the year for motor vehicle collisions with animals due to deer mating season. A collision with a deer or other animal can put a serious dent in a vehicle, if not destroy it completely, and could result in serious injuries or fatalities.
A PennDOT deer-related crash report shows the Philadelphia five-county area has seen nearly 3,500 deer crashes, resulting in five fatalities and more than 800 injuries from 2014 through 2018.
Bucks and Chester counties lead the way in deer strikes in the Philadelphia region with 1,100 reported in Bucks and 1,108 reported in Chester between 2014 and 2018. The two counties alone account for 64 percent of all deer strikes in the region, according to AAA.
A Costly Crash
While any animal on the road can be dangerous, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, there are more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in 150 human deaths 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. AAA Insurance reports the average deer-related claim in Pennsylvania in 2018 was more than $3,500.
Are You Covered?
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) finds that between 2014 and 2017 there were 1,740,425 animal-related insurance claims processed in the United States with collisions with deer causing the most claims. The actual number of incidents is likely much higher since many drivers do not choose to carry coverage for this type of event.
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.
AAA TIPS to help prevent a crash or to reduce damage from an animal collision:
- 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. While the most likely crash is you hitting an animal, on occasion they might also hit you by running into the side of your car.
- 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.
- 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.
- Slow down around curves. It’s harder to spot animals when going around curves.
- One long blast. A long blast on your horn may frighten animals away from your vehicle.
- Resist the urge to swerve: Instead, stay in your lane with both hands firmly on the wheel. Swerving away from animals can confuse them so they don’t know which way to run. It can also put you in the path of oncoming vehicles or cause you to crash into something like a lamppost or a tree.
- If the crash is imminent take your foot off the brake: during hard braking the front end of your vehicle is pulled downward which can cause the animal to travel up over the hood towards your 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. The chances of getting injured when hitting an animal are much higher if you don’t have your seatbelt on. Also never drive drunk, distracted or drowsy.
- Consider purchasing comprehensive insurance, if you don’t already have it. Comprehensive insurance is the type of insurance that covers animal strikes.
In the event of a collision with an animal, AAA recommends:
- Following the collision, call the police.
- Avoid making contact with the deer/animal. A frightened or wounded animal can hurt you or further injure itself.
- Put the vehicle’s hazard lights on; whether it’s light or dark outside.
- If possible, immediately move the vehicle to a safe location, out of the roadway, and wait for help to arrive. Your safety and the safety of your passengers is most important.
- Contact your insurance agent or company representative as quickly as possible to report any damage to your car. Collision with a deer or other animals is covered under the comprehensive portion of your automobile policy.
To report a dead deer for removal from Pennsylvania state-maintained roads, motorists can call PennDOT at 1-800-FIX-ROAD.