The deer, especially bucks, are in high spirits right now as they ensure the next generation. During rut — mating season — the chances that a deer will run in front of your car almost doubles. So does the risk to motorists. About 200 people a year die in collisions with deer, according to federal highway safety officials.
When deer run in front of a car, it’s usually because they’re pursuing a potential mate or confronting another buck that has eyes on the doe. Deer collisions are a big problem in rural states with large areas of wooded habitat.
One in every 167 drivers will make an insurance claim after hitting a deer, elk, moose or caribou this year, according to State Farm Insurance, which said the odds more than double from October to December. State Farm said its average claim for a collision with a deer is $4,341.
The risk is greatest in West Virginia, where the odds of a collision with deer or other members of the Cervidae family are one in 46. The other top states for such collisions are Montana (one in 57), Pennsylvania (one in 63), Wisconsin (one in 72) and Iowa (one in 73), athe casualty insurer said.
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Gimmicks, like high-frequency whistles, aren’t going to help you much, according to researchers at the University of Georgia, who tested a variety of sounds at different frequencies and intensities to see how deer reacted. Their conclusion: Though some people swear by them, deer whistles don’t change the animals’ behavior.
There’s also some debate on how much honking helps. It can’t hurt, but it may not help, either.
Instead, rely on common sense. Here are five things you should do to lower the chances that you’ll hit a deer in the roadway:
1. The most important thing you can do during rut is slow down, keep your eyes peeled on both sides of the roadway and be prepared to come to a complete stop if necessary. Deer don’t stop, look and listen before they dart into the roadway. Deer-crossing signs warn of where they’re most likely to cross, but you can’t count on that, especially during rut.
2. You don’t want to blind oncoming motorists, but you should use your high beams when possible to increase your chances to seeing them in the ditches. That won’t change how deer behave, though. Your headlights may temporarily blind or confuse them, and they may dart in front of you.
3. Know all you can about deer lifestyles and when they’re most active. Deer crashes usually occur an hour after sunset but are also common around sunrise, according to published research, but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down at other times.
4. Know that when you see one deer, you’re likely to see another. They travel in herds, often in single file.
5. Don’t veer to avoid deer. No good will come from that. Most car-deer crash deaths and injuries occur when motorists swerve to miss the deer. Instead, brake firmly, hold onto the steering wheel and stay in your lane as you bring the vehicle to a controlled stop.
Also, because it makes sense, make sure you’re wearing your seat belt. If you do hit a deer, it will decrease the chances that you will be injured.
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
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