Deer-vehicle collision season

Save big bucks by watching for bucks

Autumn offers a lot: gorgeous foliage, cozy sweaters, hot apple cider. But unfortunately, it’s also when deer-vehicle crashes peak.

According to Grinnell Mutual’s Claims division, more drivers are hitting more deer than ever before, continuing a four-year trend. In 2018, Grinnell Mutual received 6,134 deer hit claims, up 12 percent from 2017. And 38.9 percent of all deer hit claims came in October, November, and December – over twice as many as any other time of the year.

In 2018, the average deer hit claim for drivers insured by Grinnell Mutual was $4,364. As developments encroach rural areas and deer populations boom, experts expect that deer-hit collisions will continue to rise. Which is why it’s important for you to know what to do before it happens.

What you should know

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, there are some basic ways to protect yourself.

  1. Don’t veer for deer. Your vehicle is designed to keep you safest in a head-on collision. When a deer jumps in front of your vehicle, don’t jerk the wheel to avoid hitting the deer. You’re more likely to hit another vehicle or something stationary, land in a ditch, or roll your car if you swerve.
  2. Brake firmly. Don’t brake suddenly, which may cause the front end of your car to dip and increase the chances of the deer coming through the windshield. Brake steadily and keep both hands on the wheel. You may still hit the deer, but the chances of you walking away are much better
  3. Herd’s the word. 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.
  4. Be alert. Plenty of research suggests that deer whistles do not work reliably. Instead, be aware. Rely on your own senses of hearing and sight.
  5. Play by the rules. Wear your seatbelt and take note of those deer crossing signs. They’re placed where they are for a reason.
  6. Use your high beams. Your high beams can help reflect light from the deer’s eyes, making them easier to spot. Use them when there’s no oncoming traffic for a better look at adjacent woods and fields.
  7. No distractions. Whatever you do, don’t use your cell phone while you’re driving. Deer or no deer, the distraction could be deadly.

What to do if you hit a deer

Sometimes, hitting a deer is unavoidable. Here’s what to do:

  1. Safety first. Hitting a deer may cause airbags to deploy, which may save your life, but may also injure you. Get your vehicle off the road and out of the flow of traffic, if possible. Turn your emergency flashers on.
  2. Call 911. Call first responders and report the incident.
  3. Don’t approach the deer. It may be wounded and frightened, and their antlers and hooves are extremely sharp. A deer in shock could attack you, so it’s best to keep your distance.
  4. Record the facts: Note the date, time, and location of the accident, as well as the and names, addresses, and telephone numbers of anyone else involved, including witnesses. Take photos of the scene and the damage.
  5. Report your claim. Once things have settled down, contact your insurer. The sooner you file your claim, the sooner you’ll be back on the road.

Are you covered?

A deer hit is usually covered under comprehensive/other-than-collision insurance. Learn more about auto insurance coverages and what they mean.

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September 2019