BALTIMORE, MD (November 2, 2022) – As the days get shorter and the weather gets cooler, the breeding season for deer is in full swing. Commonly referred to as the “rut,” this time of year marks the distinct period when deer-vehicle collisions are most frequent. Male white-tailed deer will begin a nearly month-long quest for suitable mates, stopping for very little, including vehicles.

Animal-vehicle collisions can be costly and dangerous – and deer are involved in more collisions than any other animal. The United States Department of Transportation estimates there are 1-2 million collisions between vehicles and large animals such as deer every year, resulting in 200 human deaths, tens of thousands of injuries, and more than $8 billion in vehicle damages. The average cost of an animal strike claim in Maryland in 2021 was $4,999, according to AAA Insurance. 

“Across Maryland, deer have become much more noticeable along roadways and residential streets, leading to an increase in deer strikes,” says Ragina Ali, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “With that in mind, AAA is urging drivers to drive defensively and remain alert behind the wheel, especially at dawn and dusk, when deer are most active.”

A Costly Crash/Are You Covered?
While any animal on the road can be dangerous, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, there are more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in 150 human deaths and tens of thousands of injuries. Crashes involving deer can pose a great risk to drivers, but even a crash in which no one is injured can be costly.

  • Collision coverage pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with an object (e.g., a telephone pole, a guardrail, a mailbox), or as a result of flipping over.
  • Comprehensive coverage is for damage to your car covered by disasters “other than collisions,” contacts (in this case, contact/collision with animals) and is paid for under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.

“Deer and other animals can be unpredictable and might dash out in front of your vehicle. But there are actions you can take to help prevent a crash or reduce the damage from an animal collision,” noted Ali. “First and foremost, drivers and passengers should always wear a seat belt and take steps to avoid distractions behind the wheel.”

In the event of a collision with an animal, AAA recommends:

  • Following the collision, call the police.
  • Avoid making contact with the deer/animal. A frightened or wounded animal can hurt you or further injure itself.
  • Put the vehicle’s hazard lights on; whether it’s light or dark outside.
  • If possible, immediately move the vehicle to a safe location, out of the roadway, and wait for help to arrive. Your safety and the safety of your passengers is most important.
  • Contact your insurance agent or company representative as quickly as possible to report any damage to your car. Collision with a deer or other animals is covered under the comprehensive portion of your automobile policy.

AAA offers safety tips to help prevent a crash or to reduce damage from an animal collision:

  • Pay attention to road signs. Yellow, diamond-shaped signs with an image of a deer indicate areas with high levels of deer activity.
  • Don’t drive distracted. Continually scan roadways. Drivers should continuously sweep their eyes across the road in front of the vehicle looking for signs of animals and movement. Animals may also travel alongside the road, so make sure to look along both sides of the roadway, as well. While the most likely crash happens when drivers strike an animal, on occasion the animal may run into the vehicle.
  • Be especially attentive in the early morning and evening hours. Many animals, especially deer, are most active from 5-8 a.m. and 5-8 p.m., prime commuting times for many.
  • Use high beams when there is no oncoming traffic. You can spot animals sooner. Sometimes the light reflecting off their eyes will reveal their location.
  • Slow down, and watch for other deer to appear. Deer rarely travel alone, so if you see one, there are likely to be more nearby.
  • Slow down around curves. It is harder to spot animals when going around curves.
  • One long blast. A long blast on your horn may frighten animals away from your vehicle.
  • Resist the urge to swerve: Instead, stay in your lane with both hands firmly on the wheel. Swerving away from animals can confuse them so they don’t know which way to run. It can also put you in the path of oncoming vehicles or cause you to crash into something like a lamppost or a tree.
  • If the crash is imminent, take your foot off the brake: during hard braking, the front end of your vehicle is pulled downward which can cause the animal to travel up over the hood toward your windshield. Letting off the brake can protect drivers from windshield strikes because the animal is more likely to be pushed to one side of the vehicle or over the top of the vehicle.
  • Always wear a seatbelt. The chances of being injured when hitting an animal are much higher if you do not have your seatbelt on.
  • Drivers should consider purchasing comprehensive insurance if they don’t already have it. Comprehensive insurance is the type of insurance that covers animal strikes

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