You are driving down the road, just cruising along. All of sudden a deer jumps into your line of sight and you desperately try to slam on the brakes, swerve; anything to avoid hitting it. However, all this is useless as you slam head on into the deer. You have just become another statistic in what is turning out to be a growing problem in the country: deer-vehicle collisions.
Animal collisions are nothing new to the roadways of America, but the increase in cars on the highway and increase in deer population has created an even more dangerous situation. This has led to billions of dollars in damages and the loss of human life.
In 1980 there were 800 thousand reported according to an Iowa Animal Collision task force. The number has risen to around 1.5 million according to a recent report from Car-Accident.com. These incidents have caused 150 deaths and ten thousand injuries. These numbers might not even be reliable, since a lot of incidents are not reported.
This part of the country is usually a hotbed for deer. Virginia ranks eighth in the nation for deer accidents, while its neighbor West Virginia ranks first. Virginia crashes are up over 30 percent in recent years according to a Virginia initiative call Drive Smart Virginia.
All these show a correlation between a rising deer population and more vehicle accidents. Most of the accidents happen between 6 p.m and 9 p.m.
At night the deer are blinded by the headlights and are usually unaware of traffic. They move quickly and are hard to predict which makes it harder to avoid them. Another hazard with deer is that they move in packs; so when you see one, you will usually see more. The months of Nov., Dec., and Jan. are usually worse as well because deer move around more due to hunting season and because it is their mating season.
The deer problem is also an economic one as insurance companies and accident victims attempt to cover the damages caused by these accidents. According to State Farm, deer accidents cost over $1.1 billion a year in damage.
Despite the erratic nature of deer; there are steps one can take to lower their chances of an accident:
- Keep you headlights on high beam. This will help you see their eyes sooner.
- Be aware of signs that could warn of high deer activity.
- Stay alert.
If it seems that you are going to hit the deer; do not swerve. Many of the fatalities come when people swerve to miss and end up in a bigger wreck.