I think it was Ben Franklin who once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, in the Pennsylvania, we can be certain of one more thing…deer! White-tailed deer can be found in abundance here – in the fields, in the woods, in our yards, and, yes, even along the highways and crossing our roads. While we have always respectfully coexisted with our flora and fauna – with both the human population and the deer population steadily increasing, our paths seem to be crossing more and more frequently. If you live here, you may not find it a surprise to hear that Pennsylvania ranks among the top 10 states in which one is most likely to hit a deer.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are about 1 million car accidents involving deer each year – accidents resulting in 200 deaths, 10,000 injuries, and over $1 billion in vehicle damages. About 50% of those collisions occur between the hours of 5 p.m. to midnight, from late October through early December…during the deer mating season. Why? Well, let’s just say the deer are less focused than usual on yielding to traffic. And…it’s that time of year again!
So what can we do, as drivers, to avoid a collision with a deer or, at least, to reduce the risk of injury and damage should the collision be inevitable? Let’s start by driving defensively, always wearing a seat belt, and following these suggestions:
- Reduce your speed – Especially during the mating season…this will give you more reaction time.
- Avoid swerving – According to Jim Honochick, president of Yutz-Merkle Insurance Agency and the Lehigh Agency, “The biggest mistake people make is swerving to try to avoid the deer. This action actually increases the risk of injury (to the driver and/or other people) because swerving typically moves the driver out of his/her lane and often into the path of another car, boulder, or tree.”
- Be aware deer travel in herds – If you see one deer crossing the road, chances are there are more to follow…slow down until you are sure they’ve all crossed.
- Remember deer tend to be skittish – If you see a deer on the side of the road, slow down. If it gets startled, it will run…and often times they run straight into (instead of away from) traffic.
- Note “Deer Crossing” signs – Deer are creatures of habit and will use the same paths to graze…those signs are posted for a reason.
Unfortunately, even the most cautious driver cannot avoid always a deer. “If you do find a deer in your path,” says Jim Honochick, “the best thing you can do is apply your brakes and try not to swerve. It is better to hit the deer than to endanger yourself or others by swerving.”
A little extra vigilance when we’re behind the wheel – especially during the deer mating season! – will allow us to continue living harmoniously and safely with our animal neighbors here in PA!
Interesting side note:
Hitting a deer is a comprehensive loss in PA and is not surchargeable. However, if you swerve and hit another vehicle, a boulder, or a tree, it would be a considered collision (which can be surchargeable).