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Expert Tips for Avoiding Deer on the Road

Deer are a hazard any time of year, but the fall and spring, when deer are most active, is especially dangerous. These expert tips and tactics can help you avoid a collision and keep you safe when it’s inevitable.


Deer are most active in the spring and fall, which is why statistics show a spike in deer-vehicle collisions during those times of the year. “In both of those time periods, the social environment for deer is changing,” says Dr. Chris Rosenberry of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. November is especially dangerous: More insurance claims are submitted for animal-vehicle collisions in November than in any other month, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Prevent accidents before they occur—or protect yourself when one is imminent—with these pointers:

Maintain control behind the wheel. If a deer suddenly appears in front of your car, apply the brakes to slow down. Don’t swerve. It’s usually better to hit a deer than to veer into oncoming traffic, and swerving may not help you avoid the deer. “Deer are unpredictable, just like the squirrels on the road,” says Rosenberry. “They’ll run back and forth. Just like people, you don’t know how they’re going to react in a tense situation.”

Be bike-smart. Motorcycle riders need to react to a deer differently than drivers of cars, trucks and SUVs, says Bill Shaffer of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center. One way to reduce the chance of hitting a deer is to avoid riding at night or low-light times, when deer are on the move. But if there is a deer in your path, these tips will help:

Don’t blow your horn. “It’s a knee-jerk reaction, but I would not recommend it,” says Rosenberry. Deer tend to stop and look when they hear a loud noise, the opposite of what you want them to do. And don’t waste money on car-mounted deer whistles. Studies have shown that they do not scare deer away.

Watch the clock.
Deer are most active around dawn and dusk. That is when they are on the move and most likely crossing highways and other roads, so be especially vigilant if you’re driving at those times.

Heed road signs. Always pay attention to deer crossing signs. You may see news types of signs popping up. Some states are experimenting with seasonal warning signs in high-crash locations. These temporary roadside signs may better grab the attention of drivers, who experts believe ignore permanent signs. Another idea with promise: motion-sensitive signs that light up when deer are nearby.

Stay calm if you hit a deer. In the aftermath of an accident, follow these steps:

If your car is hit, is your deer damage covered?

If your auto insurance includes comprehensive coverage, you are covered for car damage caused by things other than another car—including such animals as moose, wild turkeys, elk and deer. Comprehensive coverage is not mandatory in most states, so check the Declarations Page on your policy or call your agent to verify your coverage.

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