Deer-Vehicle Collisions on the Rise

October 18, 2006 - Posted at 5:49 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- Seeing deer this time of year is not all that unusual, but unless you're hunting the big game, sightings can, and often, lead to accidents. Arkansas ranks 20th in the nation when it comes to the number of deer-vehicle collisions and with deer moving more frequently during the fall and winter, motorists are on high alert...but some haven't been so lucky this season.

Cars colliding with deer on America's roads continue to be a dangerous and costly problem.  It's estimated that there are 10,000 more collisions this year then there were last year.

Good Morning Region 8 hits the airwaves at 5 a.m. every day, but those behind the scenes are working at KAIT much earlier than that.  Director Andrew Jercinovic had a big surprise on his way to work earlier this week.

"I saw the deer and I didn't really panic, but I did slam on the brakes, which caused it to lock up and I was like, "Oh, I just hit a deer!"' said Jercinovic.

His 3 a.m. run in with a deer did about $1,000 dollars worth of damage to his car.

"It messed the grill up pretty good, messed the bumper up pretty good, working on fixing it, but it's going to take a lot," said Jercinovic.

"The average property damage costs per vehicle was around $2,800 dollars which is significant which can have an affect on folks premiums and as a whole can cause the insurance market to go up," said State Farm Agent Ben Ford.

Ford says policy holders were involved in nearly 200,000 deer-car collisions just in the last year.

"This year we had a 9% increase in deer collisions in the State of Arkansas and nationally, a 6% increase," said Ford, "Those are due to an increase in the deer population and an increase in the human population.  People are building more in wooded areas and not having an opportunity for the natural deer habitat."

"I go to work early in the morning, it's about 3:00 a.m. usually, sometimes 3:30 a.m. and almost everyday you'll see two or three deer, maybe more.  I drive real cautious, but sometimes they just come out in front of you.  You cannot stop!" said Jercinovic.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions annually in the United States, causing more than 150 fatalities every year.

Some Defensive Driving Tips to avoid hitting a deer:

  • Keep a close watch for deer at dawn and dusk. Deer are most active during these times. Be especially alert and drive with caution.
  • Be on the lookout for deer crossing signs and slow down.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, just because you don't see a deer crossing sign posted, it doesn't mean deer won't unexpectedly appear.
  • Flash your lights or honk your horn to frighten deer away from the side of the road.
  • When you encounter deer along the roadside, turn on your emergency lights to let other motorists know about the potential danger.
  • Use your high-beam headlights when there is no opposing traffic. The headlight beam will illuminate the eyes of deer and provide greater driver reaction time.
  • Upon seeing a deer, immediately slow down. Do not swerve - because this can confuse deer as to where to run. It could also cause you to lose control and hit a tree or another car.
  • If you can't avoid the accident, then just hit the deer while maintaining control of your vehicle. Some experts say that if such a collision is inevitable, you should avoid braking at impact so that the deer may pass underneath your car as opposed to hitting the windshield.
  • Look for other deer after one has crossed the road. Deer commonly travel in groups, so the probability is high that other deer will be in front of or behind the one you've seen.
  • Don't rely on hood-mounted deer whistles and other devices to scare away deer.
  • Always wear your seatbelt. Most people injured and/or killed in deer - automobile collisions were not wearing their seat belt.
  • Finally, remember to ... SLOW DOWN FOR WILDLIFE!

If you are unable to avoid a collision with a deer, take the following steps:

  • Do not touch the animal! The deer, in attempting to move or get away, could hurt you or itself.
  • Remove your automobile from the roadway, if possible.
  • Call the police.