The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission estimates our deer population this year is topping roughly a million. And those million or so deer are watching for two things – mates and hunters. Especially from October through December, which is their mating season and our deer hunting season.
With nearly 18,000 animal-related car crashes in North Carolina (90% of them deer) in 2104, these fleet footed beauties are not looking out for you or your car.
Deer on the Move in Autumn
While deer can travel at any time, be particularly alert between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 a.m. – and especially at dawn, and in areas where there’s development and where deer are being displaced. For example, for many years there has been a lot of construction and development in Wake County. And likely as a result, it has had the highest number of deer-related crashes 12 years in a row through 2015, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
11 Tips to Try to Avoid Deer-Related Car Damage or Injury
Here’s what the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and other roadway safety experts suggests to try to avoid colliding with a deer.
- Deer travel in groups – If you see one deer cross the road, others are likely nearby.
- Slow down in posted deer crossing areas and heavily wooded areas, especially during the late afternoon and evening.
- Always wear your seat belt – Most people injured in deer-related car crashes were not wearing their seat belt.
- Deer are most likely to travel near bridges, overpasses, railroad tracks, and streams and ditches – this is where most deer crashes occur.
- Drive with high beams on when prudent – watch for eyes reflecting in the headlights.
- Increase the distance between your vehicle and other cars – especially at night. If the car ahead of you hits a deer, you may also crash.
- Slow down and blow your horn with one long blast – to frighten the deer away. Deer can be easily mesmerized by consistent light, so flashing your lights may also help scare the deer away.
- Do not swerve to avoid a collision with deer – This could cause you to lose control of your vehicle, flipping it over, veering it into oncoming traffic, or overcorrecting and running off the road, causing a more serious crash.
- Let off your brakes if you see you are about to collide – GEICO Insurance company suggests that you try to let off the brakes at the moment of impact. Braking through the impact could cause the hood of your vehicle to dip down, which can propel the animal through the windshield.
- Do not rely on deer-related devices – deer whistles, deer fences, or reflectors to deter deer, as these devices have not proven to reduce deer-vehicle crashes.
- Do not touch the deer if you crash into it – A frightened and wounded deer can hurt you or further injure itself. Get your car safely off the road if possible, and call 911 to report the accident.
Get Evidence That a Deer Caused the Crash
Take a photo of any evidence that shows you hit a deer. (For insurance reasons. I’m not suggesting you should pull over and take a selfie.) If you see any animal skin, hair, or other parts on your car (in the grill perhaps), get it on camera up close.
Sounds insensitive and inhumane, I know. (I love deer and I wouldn’t like to do this, myself.) But the reality is if you report the accident to your insurance company or if someone is injured as a result, you will need proof that you faced a “sudden emergency.”
Proof You Were Not Negligent
In North Carolina (and many states) there is a legal principle called the “sudden emergency doctrine” that can be used to defend negligence on your part. It provides a challenge to the standard of care for ordinary negligence in certain situations where you are faced with an emergency situation. In other words, an action that might have otherwise been negligent, might not be so if you are confronted with a surprise emergency situation.
Proof for Insurance Company
Let’s say, for example, no one is injured (except the deer), but the front of your car is a mess. The insurance company will want proof that you actually did hit a deer. Or that you swerved to avoid the deer. Otherwise they could deny your claim. Or at the very least, if they cannot prove you hit a deer, they could raise your rates.
While our firm handles primarily personal injury cases (not auto damage claims), here is food for thought about how an insurance company may view your predicament if you are filing for auto damages.
The insurance company cannot recover damages from the deer. (We all know deer don’t pay insurance premiums.) And even though colliding with a deer or any wildlife is technically considered a collision, this particular type of collision is usually covered under your comprehensive policy. Usually with comprehensive, you don’t’ pay a deductible and your rates are not likely to go up.
If your insurance company doesn’t see “evidence” that you hit a deer, they might make you file your car damages claim under your collision policy, which means you will pay your deductible and they could increase your rates!