There is always a risk on the road. Driving around Boulder one faces a wide range of hazards: roadwork, distracted drivers and the upcoming winter. To make it more dangerous, November is also the peak season for car and deer collisions. The majority of animal collisions happen on highways but deer will also hop through dark city streets and underneath the streetlights.
Why is it a greater risk in the fall?
October and November is the annual rut season for deer, better known as mating season. Bucks seek out does more aggressively and often wander onto roads and other pathways during these months, which causes an increase is auto collisions that begins in October and ends in November.
Statistics to know about vehicle/deer collisions
Most often, the deer (which average around 150 pounds) will come out worse than the vehicle, but this isn’t always the case. Angle and speed of impact are the most significant influences, but road conditions are vital. If there are guardrails, trees or oncoming traffic, a collision with a deer can have far worse results for both car and driver.
According to State Farm Insurance, Colorado ranks just 37th in the country for frequency of deer/auto accidents, with a 1-in-263 chance when driving. This may sound minor, but the same report (gathering data from the 2015-2016 season) shows a 15.6% increase from the previous year. Of states that are in the top five for deer to auto collisions, the highest increase was significant lower, a 9.1% increase in Montana. It’s a growing concern in the state of Colorado.
The average cost per insurance claim was roughly $4,000, so hitting a deer means serious vehicle repairs and a major inconvenience. The risk of damage and injury increases with smaller vehicles. Motorcycles have the highest fatality rate in collisions with animals.
What to do when a deer is in your headlights
Deer are only doing what comes natural and there’s no avoiding their wandering this time of year. It’s up to drivers to be aware, vigilant and responsive. An incorrect reaction can slide your car out of control and into traffic, making the damage and danger far worse.
Deer are the most active during dusk and dawn. AAA offers the following tips, not only to avoid collisions but also for when you see an animal standing in the road and can’t do anything about it.
- Scan both road and shoulders, looking ahead.
- When there is no oncoming traffic, use your high beam headlights as often as possible.
If an animal is in the road, remain in your lane.
- Swerving causes loss of control and more serious accidents.
- Apply the brakes firmly but release them just before hitting the animal. The momentum will push the animal away from the vehicle instead of throwing it onto your hood.
In addition to these techniques, always drive carefully through wooded areas, buckle up and remember that deer often move in herds. If you see one, slow down and scan extra carefully. There are likely to be more animals roaming close by.
Damages and insurance claims
If you’ve been in a crash with a deer or another animal, the process is similar to other car accidents. The key difference is there will be no claim of fault and no second party to pay for damages. Instead, an accident with a deer is strictly an insurance matter unless the victim deer caused erratic traffic leading to a multi-car accident.
If you’ve hit a deer, first make sure that you aren’t injured yourself. Call the police or sheriff to file a report. The report offers proof for your insurance company. Take your own notes as well, including photos on your phone that show the animal (if possible), damage to the car, injuries to yourself and the scene of the accident.
After documentation, file a claim with your insurance company. An experienced attorney can streamline the claims process and often increased your awarded compensation.