Dangerous Season for Car-Deer Crashes
Posted on October 13th, 2016 by Zane Cagle
Drive Safely During Fall Mating, Migration and Hunting Season
Missouri and Illinois roadways are prime areas for an increase in deer traffic during the mating and migration season.
More motor vehicle crashes occur from October through December than any other time of the year related to deer. In addition, the beginning of hunting season usually fills the woods with gunshots further increasing the movement of deer.
Conservation efforts account for deer hunting in an effort to control the deer population and reduce the conflict between human and deer population in order to avoid crashes and conflicts. However, deer mating and migration patterns have been a part of this region for many years.
Deer in the Headlights–Drive Through
The expression likens being so surprised or frightened so that one cannot move or think, thus this is not metaphorical but actual deer behavior when they are confronted with a moving vehicle at night. Deer reactions are erratic and impossible to predict so trying to avoid hitting a deer often results in a driver losing control of their vehicle and often running off the road and or striking an object or another car.
The Missouri Department of Highway Patrol recommends that you if you cannot slow down and avoid wildlife on the roadway, “drive through” any animal that is in the roadway rather than trying to swerve and risk losing control. More often than not, drivers swerve to miss an animal in the road and lose control resulting in serious injury or fatal crashes.
“Driving through an animal” almost seems counter-intuitive to most drivers. We automatically react to something in our path by swerving but in the common deer scenario, it is better to drive through the deer than swerving and losing control.
Deer- Not Just a Rural Problem
As deer and human populations continue to conflict, deer sightings can happen on interstates in and around St. Louis as well as other metropolitan areas. Often, deer are seen all over St. Louis County, thus you cannot assume that just because you live in a metropolitan area, you won’t have to encounter them on the roadways. And, they can take a property damage toll.
There are several safety tips for driving during prime deer season for drivers:
- Use Extra Caution in Deer Zones. Slow down and drive with caution in known deer zones particularly during dawn and dusk hours. Pay attention to wildlife crossing signs–they are there for a good reason. Also, if you see one, expect there will be several in the area.
- SLOW DOWN–This is always good advice when the driving conditions are “less than ideal”. Travel at a speed that will allow you to maintain a constant lookout for animals in an attempt to avoid collision. Travel at a speed that will allow you to stop in time if a deer comes into the beam cast by your headlights. Don’t try to “outrun” the deer.
- Always use your seatbelt. A study conducted by the Insurance Institute showed that in a study of fatal animal crashes, 60% of people killed were NOT wearing their seatbelt.
- At night, use High Beams. When driving at night, use your high beam headlights when there is no oncoming traffic. The high beams better illuminate the eyes of wildlife you may encounter on the roadway. If you encounter a deer, switch your beams to low so that the animals are not blinded and then more apt to move.
- Avoid swerving when you see a deer–Brake firmly when you notice the deer in or near your path. Many serious crashes occur when drivers swerve to avoid a deer and hit another car or lose control.
- Scan the roadway. Even if your car is not the first to collide with the deer, you are still at risk. Multiple deer crashes can occur when deer fly over the vehicle it collides with and lands on another car or when a deer collision causes a chain reaction. Yes, it is as gory as it sounds…………..Be observant and practice defensive driving.
- Devices Not Proven Effective. Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences and reflections to deter deer. These devices have not been proven effective.
If You’ve Involved in a Deer-Related Motor Vehicle Crash
If you’ve driven down many Missouri and Illinois highways, chances are good that you’ve had a near-miss with a deer or know someone who has hit a deer. They are so common in the fall.
Check your auto insurance policy for coverage should you hit a deer. Unless you are struck by another car trying to avoid a deer, you are looking at filing a property damage claim with your own insurance as a deer cannot be named as a “defendant” in a claim or injury lawsuit. If you have been injured in a vehicle where the driver hit a deer, then you can possibly make a claim with the driver’s insurance for your injuries.
If you’ve been injured in a car crash, you should consult an expert car crash attorney as soon as possible and before talking with any insurance company.