Autumn offers a lot to love: gorgeous foliage, cozy sweaters, and hot apple cider. But unfortunately, it’s also the time of year when deer-vehicle crashes are at their peak. If you live in a rural area, it’s not uncommon to have hit a deer or witnessed the aftermath.
With farmers harvesting their fields, deer-hit claims tend to rise in autumn for Grinnell Mutual’s claims division — and this year will likely be no exception. For the last three years, deer-hit claims have trended up. In 2017, the average deer-hit claim was $4,011 — that’s a 48 percent increase from 2010.
FROM DAWN TO DUSK
Deer are at their most active from predawn to mid-morning, and dusk to early evening, which corresponds with school and work commutes. No matter what time you plan to be on the road, here’s what you should know:
- Play by the rules. You should always wear a seatbelt and drive the speed limit, but pay special attention to deer crossing signs. They’re placed where they are for a reason. And use your high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic. They improve visibility and you’ll have a better view of adjacent woods and fields.
- Have you heard of the herd? Deer rarely travel alone. You’re not necessarily in the clear if you avoid the one deer that leapt into your path — chances are he has friends that might not be far behind. Your best bet is to slow down considerably and leave plenty of space between you and the other vehicles around you.
- Don’t veer for deer. When a deer jumps in front of your vehicle, try to avoid jerking the wheel to avoid hitting it — you’re more likely to hit another vehicle, a tree, road signs, or fly into a ditch if you swerve. Instead, don’t panic and brake firmly. You may still hit the deer, but the chances of you walking away are much better.
- Toss the toys. Your most dependable resource is keeping your wits about you. Avoid using novelty deer whistles; most of them don’t work. Deer can’t hear them and wouldn’t be bothered by them if they could. Instead, rely on your own senses of hearing and sight when it comes to wildlife on the road. And whatever you do, don’t use your cell phone while you’re driving. The distraction could be deadly.
SO, NOW WHAT?
Sometimes, a hit is unavoidable. After the smoke clears, here’s what to do:
- Call 911. Once you’ve made sure you and your passengers are unharmed, call emergency services.
- Don’t approach the deer. The animal might not be completely incapacitated. A deer in shock could go into attack mode, so it’s best to keep your distance.
- Snap a photo or two. It’s a good idea to take photos of the damage. A claims adjuster will be able to process your claim faster if it’s documented.
- Report your claim.