The Worst Time of Year for Vehicles Hitting Deer in the USA

Many people call it the holiday season or the festive season but October through December each year is also the worst time of the year for deer-strike collisions.

Photo: IIHS

The reason is very simple, it is the mating season for deer and the animals move around much more than at other times of year. In fall, that’s the main answer to the question: Why did the deer cross the road?

Most drivers know that the most risky times of day for hitting wild animals are dawn and dusk although many do not know about fall and early winter being particularly bad.

But here’s the shocker: Research shows that there may be as many as 1.5 million deer-strike collisions in the lower 48 states each year, the majority of which are not reported to law enforcement, environmental departments or insurance providers.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the average cost for repairs to vehicles that hit deer is around $3,000.

Their figures show that the worst state in the country for deer-strike collisions is West Virginia, but the three most risky counties in the USA are all in Pennsylvania. Go figure!

According to Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA] the following precautions are very important:

  1. Watch for the deer warning signs. The more signs there are on any section of road, the more animal collisions there have been. (Those signs are surprisingly expensive so additional ones are only erected when there is good cause.)
  2. The best way to reduce the risk of hitting deer is simply to back off the speed for a suitable distance when you see the signs, particularly through the night, from dusk to dawn. Every few miles per hour you shave off will dramatically increase the chances of you being able to stop before hitting a deer that runs out in front of you.
  3. If a deer does run into the road, the consensus opinion from safe-driving experts is do not swerve! Many more people are killed or injured as a result of swerving than from actually hitting a deer, because the chances of a rollover, or of hitting a tree or even an oncoming vehicle increase dramatically. With a deer or smaller animal, the safest thing to do is brake hard but stay on your own side of the road, even if that means hitting the deer.
  4. For larger animals, however, such as elk or particularly moose, the situation is much more dangerous inside a vehicle and you need to do whatever you can to avoid hitting the animal.

Nobody wants to hit a deer but remember that reducing your speed in relevant areas can significantly reduce the risk, and that if worst comes to worst it’s better to hit a deer than to maim or kill a person, whether that is yourself or someone else.

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