During deer season, which generally runs from October through December, there is a dramatic increase in the movement of the deer population, especially in Arizona’s high country.
While any animal on the road can be dangerous, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in 150 human deaths and tens of thousands of injuries. In Arizona, the number of animal collision claims by AAA Insurance policyholders increased by 19 percent from 2016 to 2017.
“We want drivers to be prepared should they encounter an animal on the road, especially during deer season,” said Michelle Donati, spokesperson for AAA Arizona. “Knowing what signs to look for and what actions to take will help motorists avoid or reduce the damage caused by an animal collision.”
To help consumers drive smarter during deer season, AAA offers the following tips to avoid an animal collision:
Keep your eyes on the road and scan ahead of you: Continuously scan from left to right for signs of deer or other animals as they can come from any direction. While animal-collisions usually occur when an animal darts in front of a car, they can also run into the side of a vehicle and scanning ahead of you will help you spot them from afar.
Be especially attentive during commute hours: Deer and many other animals are most active during commuting hours – roughly between 5-8 a.m. and 5-8 p.m. Since animals are most likely to travel during this period, it’s important to be extra cautious when driving during these times.
Use high beam headlights at night if there’s no oncoming traffic: When driving at night, the extra light may help you spot animals sooner and give you more time to slow down, move over or honk your horn to scare the animal away. A long blast on your horn can also frighten large animals away from your vehicle.
Watch for other deer: Deer typically travel in herds and rarely travel alone. If you see one, chances are there are others nearby and you should proceed with caution in case other deer are present.
Brake firmly and remain in your lane if impact is imminent: Serious accidents can occur when drivers swerve to avoid animals causing them to hit oncoming vehicles or crash into fixed objects on the side of the road. If an animal is in your path stay in your lane so you don’t confuse the animal into not knowing which way to run.
Always wear a seatbelt: Most injuries in animal-vehicle collisions occur when passengers are not wearing their seatbelt. Always ensure you and your passengers are wearing a seatbelt at all times.
Do not approach wounded animals: If an animal is wounded and frightened it can be unpredictable and may cause you or others injury. Call the police or animal control organization if the animal is in the middle of the road and blocking traffic so they can take care of the situation accordingly.
AAA recommends consumers consider purchasing comprehensive coverage to cover animal collisions, if they don’t already have it as part of their auto insurance policy.