While you might not usually think about what to do if a deer suddenly runs in front of your car, taking the time to figure that out could one day save your life. Each year, well over one million car accidents involving deer occur in the United States. About 10,000 of those accidents injure drivers or passengers badly enough that they need immediate medical attention. And around 200 people are actually killed when their car hits a deer.
Instead of just accepting these numbers as fact, there are things anyone can do to help protect them while riding in a car.
How To Spot Deer While Driving
First off, you always need to be watching for movement off the road that could be a deer. This is especially true when you are driving through areas that are heavily wooded. When you do spot movement that could be from a deer, you should immediately slow down but not stop. With your vehicle traveling slower, you will have more control over it and more time to react. Also, you should know that deer rarely travel alone, so if you see one, there are likely others nearby. Another good tip is to remember that deer are more active at night, so if you are driving after the sun goes down, you need to be extra watchful.
Striking A Deer In Your Car
When you do strike a deer with your car, one of the greatest risks is that the hooves or antlers go through the windshield and injure the driver or front passenger. An old practice is to accelerate as hard as possible when there is no avoiding a deer since that supposedly will keep it from flipping up and through the windshield. Like most old wives tales, that advice should not be followed. In fact, the best thing to do is apply the brakes, steer straight ahead, and above all maintain control of the car.
Despite the risks involved in hitting a deer, too many people end up seriously injured or dead because a driver tries to swerve around a deer in the road. You need to remember that other cars might still be traveling your way or in the opposite direction. Swerving out of your lane can potentially trigger a deadly collision that will surely be worse than striking a deer.
One of the greatest dangers of hitting a deer comes from what you do immediately after the accident. Turning on your hazard lights after the collision is an excellent idea since it will let other drivers know you aren’t moving. Too many drivers attempt to move a deer they assume is dead without watching it closely first. Even if a deer is mortally wounded, it might have enough energy left to kick you with its powerful hooves, which can seriously injure you or leave you laying down in the road where another car can drive over you. The best thing to do is call the local authorities so they can remove the deer body from the road before it triggers yet another accident. With the authorities on the scene, you can then ask if you may keep the deer for food if you desire.
What are the consequences of hitting a deer?
There are some states wherein you will only be fined if you leave a deer after hitting it. However, there are some states where this action may be considered a crime.
Meanwhile, considering that a deer is a wild animal and that they are very unpredictable and fast, car insurance companies usually do not consider hitting a deer as the driver’s fault and treat this as an unavoidable accident instead. That being said, most insurance companies will not raise your rates if this happens. I am saying most because there are still some that will.
Deers are big enough to cause enough damage to your car, especially if the impact is great, so it’s important to check with your carrier if the damage from hitting a deer is included in your insurance coverage. The most comprehensive insurance coverage pays for damage to your car from random and unpredictable circumstances such as when you hit a deer.
What if the deer runs away after you hit it?
There are times when after being hit, a deer may recover soon without getting any injury. As unpredictable as they are, they might just run away after the incident even before you can pull over to check on the damage.
When this happens, what can you do then? Should you just drive off and leave everything as if nothing happens?
You can certainly do so. However, I advise you to still pull over, take photos of the place where the accident happened, and check your vehicle for any damage. I’ve said this too many times but I’m going to repeat it here again. Documenting everything through photographs or even video recording can save you in case you’ll need to appear in court for some reason, or if you, later on, find damage to your car and you’ll need evidence to file a claim for insurance coverage.
Now, if you see any damage to properties in the accident area, or to your car, you should still call the authorities to file a report. If there is no damage, however, you may just drive away.