Deer strikes rise during fall months; AAA says brake hard and stay in lane

- A new report from AAA Mid-Atlantic advises drivers not to swerve - but rather to brake hard and stay in their lane if they encounter a deer in the roadway.

The auto club says deer strikes often rise during the fall months due the mating habits of the animals. Also, the transition from daylight saving time to standard time, and reduced daylight hours, cause drivers to be on the road more often during dawn and dusk - times of the day when deer are most active.

"Tellingly, because of the animal's unpredictability and the time it usually takes a driver to identify something in the roadway, successfully 'dodging' a collision is very difficult," said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic's Manager of Public and Government Affairs in a press release. "Although striking a deer during this season is common, a driver swerving in an attempt to miss the deer is another very common cause for crashes. This can be a deadly mistake because the driver may hit an oncoming motorist head-on. First and foremost, always protect yourself by wearing a seat belt and removing all distractions behind the wheel."

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Highway Data Loss Institute says crashes involving animals is almost three times higher in November than any other month of the year. The average damage claim is more than $4, 000, they say.

Each year there are about 1.5 million car accidents with deer in the U.S., resulting in an average of 150 deaths and 10,000 personal injuries, AAA says.

"When traveling through areas with known deer activity, especially after dark, slow down to improve your chances of spotting deer on the move," said Kendall Bramble, a AAA Insurance agent in Washington, D.C. "Deer crashes are not only costly - they can be deadly. Deer and other animals are unpredictable and you never know when they might dash out in front of your vehicle."

Tips To Help Prevent A Crash Or To Reduce Damage From An Animal Collision:

• 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, as well. 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 people.

• 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 down the road when going around curves.

• One long blast. A long blast on your horn may frighten animals away from your vehicle.

• Don’t swerve. Don’t swerve, instead, brake hard and stay in your lane. 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 a crash is imminent take your foot off of the brake so the front of your vehicle can rise slightly. This helps lessen the chance of the animal rolling onto your hood and into your windshield.

• 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.

What to Do If You Hit a Deer:

If you are unable to avoid a collision and hit a deer, do not get out the car and attempt to touch the deer, it could harm you.

• Don’t go near a wounded animal. A wounded animal can be unpredictable and cause injury.

• Turn on your hazards to alert other motorists and call 911.

• If possible, remove your car from the roadway, but only if the deer has left. Otherwise, keep your lights on to keep other traffic from striking you or the deer.

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