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HOUSTON (CW39) Fewer daylight hours and a spike in deer activity during the fall months increase the chances of roadway crashes with the animals. Deer collisions become more common this time of year since peak breeding season takes place in November. A collision with deer or other animals can put a serious dent in your vehicle, if not destroy it completely, and could result in serious injuries or fatalities.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Texas had the highest number of deaths from collisions with animals over a ten-year period (2009-2018). To reduce inconvenience, costs and potential danger, AAA Texas cautions drivers to be especially vigilant on the road in animal-prone areas in the months ahead.

“Drivers who are not buckled up and motorcyclists who are not wearing safety helmets are most vulnerable in these crashes,” said Claudia Rodriguez, AAA Texas Vice President of Insurance Claims. “Many of the crashes are unavoidable but understanding the dangers and being prepared for them, especially in November and December when most automobile/deer crashes typically occur, could save lives.”

Last year, there were more than more than 10,600 crashes involving animals (domestic and wild) on Texas roadways, according to data from the Texas Department of Transportation. Moreover, according to the IIHS, more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions occur each year across the U.S., resulting in 150 fatalities and tens of thousands of injuries. 

AAA’s Recommendation: Check Your Coverage.

AAA Insurance reports that its average deer-related claim in Texas is greater than $5,000, though costs can be much higher depending on the damage to a vehicle.

Collision coverage pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with an object (e.g., a telephone pole, a guard rail, a mailbox), another vehicle, or as a result of flipping over. AAA Texas recommends motorists opt-in for comprehensive coveragewhich is for damage to your car covered by incidents “other than collisions” (in this case, contact with animals).

“While adding comprehensive coverage may add a small amount to your premium, it could save you money down the road,” Rodriguez said.

To help prevent a crash or to reduce damage from an animal collision, AAA suggests motorists:

  • Pay attention to road signs. Yellow, diamond-shaped signs with an image of a deer indicate areas with high levels of deer activity.
  • Keep your eyes on the road. Ditching distractions is one of the easiest ways to make sure you’re ready for when a deer comes out of nowhere. 
  • Be especially attentive in early morning and evening hours. Many animals, especially deer, are most active from 5-8 AM and 5-8 PM, prime commuting times for many.
  • Use high beams when there’s 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 towards 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.

If you hit a deer, AAA Texas recommends:

  • Call the police.
  • Avoid making contact with the 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. 
  • Contact your insurance agent or company representative as quickly as possible to report any damage to your car. 

About AAA: AAA provides more than 61 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of motor clubs and nearly 1,000 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility.