Avoid the deer in your headlights

Steer clear of deer

There’s a reason “like a deer caught in headlights” is a popular saying — both the deer and the driver tend to freeze in shock before a collision.

According to Grinnell Mutual’s Claims division, more drivers are hitting more deer than ever before, continuing a five-year trend. In 2019, Grinnell Mutual received 6,114 deer- hit claims. And 39 percent of all deer hit claims came in October, November, and December — nearly twice as many as any other time of the year — with an average claim cost of $4,680.

As urban development encroaches farther into previously unpopulated areas and deer populations boom, experts expect that deer-hit collisions will continue to rise. That’s why it’s important for you to know what to do before it happens.

Watching out for deer

Deer are at their most active from predawn to mid-morning and dusk to early evening, corresponding with school and work commutes. But no matter what time you are on the road, follow these tips from the Insurance Information Institute (III) to avoid a collision.

  • No distractions. Whatever you do, don’t use your cell phone while you’re driving. Deer or no deer, the distraction could be deadly.
  • Be cautious during high-risk travel times. Deer are nocturnal, so the most dangerous times for driving in deer territory are dusk and dawn. Be extra careful around heavily wooded areas, spots where you know deer are common, and wherever you see a deer-crossing road sign.
  • Watch for the “plus one.” Deer rarely travel alone. You’re not necessarily in the clear if you avoid the one deer that leapt into your path. In fact, the same deer may even cross back. Slow down and leave plenty of space between you and other vehicles. Plenty of research suggests that deer whistles do not work reliably. Instead, be aware. Rely on your own senses of hearing and sight.
  • Beware unpredictable behavior. Deer do not use the same logic as people. They may stop in the middle of the road, or even cross and then double back on a road with no warning.
  • Use high beams when possible. The deer’s eyes may reflect the vehicle’s headlights, so use high beams if there’s no oncoming traffic.
  • Always wear your seat belt. Most people injured in deer-vehicle crashes are not wearing their seat belt.
  • Slow down and blow your horn. If you’re able to see a deer ahead or on the side of the road, honk your horn. One long blast will help frighten the deer away, as well as alert any nearby drivers of the danger.
  • Don’t veer for deer. If a deer jumps in front of your vehicle, do not swerve. Instead, keep your hands on the steering wheel, and brake firmly while staying in your lane. You may still hit the deer, but the chances of you walking away are much better than if you swerved, where you’re more likely to hit another vehicle or stationary object, land in a ditch, or roll your car. Come to a controlled stop in a safe location.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU HIT A DEER

 

Sometimes, hitting a deer is unavoidable. Stay calm and follow these steps:

  1. Pull off the road and turn on your emergency lights. This will alert other drivers to stop or slow down. Be cautious of oncoming traffic.
  2. Call 911. Report the accident to the local authorities who can remove the deer.
  3. Don’t approach the deer. A struck deer may be wounded and frightened and could attack you. Their antlers and hooves are extremely sharp, so it’s best to keep your distance. Leave it to the DNR or police officers to handle.
  4. Document the scene. Snap a photo or video of your damaged vehicle and the accident scene. Note the date, time, and location of the accident. Get names, addresses, and telephone numbers of anyone else involved, including witnesses. Gathering this information will help your claims adjuster process your claim faster.

Report your claim

Deer hits are some of the most common claims insurance companies get. Save yourself time following the steps below.

 

Go to Manage My Account (MMA)Watch how to file a claim online using MMA

You can also report a claim by calling 877-467-2252. Still have questions? Our claims FAQ is here for you.

Claims FAQ