Do you see the deer looking at you?
For those of us who live in the Midwest, fall is a great time of year. Football has returned, the temperatures are comfortable, and watching the leaves change colors is enjoyable. Unfortunately, this is also the peak time of year for deer and auto collisions. Mating season for deer runs from October through December, so the population is more active during this time, accounting for that increase in collisions.
Here are some tips to prevent a collision between your car and a deer this fall.
1. Pay attention to your surroundings. Look for the yellow traffic sign with a deer on it. If you see one, it means you’re entering an area with an active, concentrated deer population. Make sure your eyes are always moving, and pay particular attention to the side of the road.
And don’t forget to pay attention to what other cars are doing. The car in front of you may brake suddenly. If you notice something out of the ordinary, slow down.
2. One deer probably equals many more. Deer usually travel in herds, so if you see one cross the road, look immediately to where the deer came from. There are probably others ready to cross. Deer are most active between 6:00 and 9:00pm.
3. High beams, high beams, high beams. Use your high beams as much as oncoming traffic will allow at this time of year. High beams do a great job lighting up the road in front of you, especially the side of the road where the herd may be hanging out.
If you feel your headlights aren’t lighting up the road properly, consider taking your car to your local mechanic for a check up. A headlight may be burned out or need an adjustment.
4. Never swerve for a deer or other animal. While swerving is an instinct many of us feel when an animal runs in the road, it can put you in a more dangerous situation. Swerving can cause you to lose control of your car, put you in the lane of oncoming traffic, or cause you to hit a tree or ditch and overturn your vehicle. The best techniques are to remind yourself not to swerve and to brake firmly.
5. Consider purchasing deer whistles. While there’s conflicting data on whether or not deer whistles actually work, they’re a cheap precautionary measure. I believe it’s worth giving them a try. I’ve had them on my cars and never collided with a deer. Knock on wood.
6. Stay calm and safe. If you do hit a deer, another natural instinct is to get out of your car to check the damage. But can you really determine the extent of the damage just by looking at it? Probably not. I recommend you stay in your car. From there you can do a number of things that will keep you and your family safe:
a. Call 911;
b. Turn on your hazard lights; and
c. Call your insurance company.
7. Knowledge is power. Make sure you understand what coverages and limits of insurance you have on your auto insurance policy. Comprehensive insurance provides coverage for damage that results from hitting an animal; however, if you don’t have this coverage, you’ll be left with the bill.