Deer an increasing hazard to drivers

ELKINS – As we enter the months of November and December, drivers should bear in mind those months are the most likely times for collisions with deer in West Virginia.

Officials say the best way to avoid a costly accident that disrupts your life is to slow down, use caution, use high beams and watch for the possibility of deer running in your path while driving.

Dave Phillips, a State Farm Insurance media relations spokesperson, said the state has held the number one position for deer-related auto accidents seven years in a row.

“The chance of any single licensed driver (hitting a deer) in West Virginia is one in 41,” Phillips said. “Data shows that November, the heart of the deer hunting and mating seasons, is the month during which deer/vehicle encounters are more likely.”

The Department of Motor Vehicles offers tips to avoid accidents with these four-legged friends, including increasing awareness around dusk and dawn, which is the time most deer are active. Officials recommend slowing your speed near designated deer crossing areas, and using caution when a deer is spotted because deer tend to travel in herds – when you see one, usually there are more hidden off to the side of the road.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are 1.5 million car accidents involving deer each year. The average collision with a deer ends up costing about $2,800. If a personal injury is involved with that accident, that number jumps to more than $10,000.

Phillips offers other advice for avoiding mishaps with deer while driving.

“The most likely time for deer collisions is 6 to 9 p.m., while they are most active,” Phillips said. “Don’t rely on car-mounted deer whistles to avoid collisions. If a deer collision seems inevitable, attempting to swerve out of the way could cause you to lose control of your vehicle or place you in the path of an oncoming vehicle. Use high beam headlamps as much as possible at night to illuminate the areas from which deer will enter roadways.”

Senior Trooper S.E. Heavner of the West Virginia State Police in Elkins said sometimes you cannot avoid a collision with a deer.

“Don’t panic if you strike a deer,” Heavner said. “Move safely off the road if possible, and contact your automobile insurance company to file a claim with them.”

Heavner said if there is significant damage or if you are unable to move off the roadway to safety, call 911.

“It’s a good idea to reduce your speed as it is turning dark, especially in winter,” Heavner said. “Remember to always operate your vehicle according to the road conditions.”