Watch Out for Deer on Virginia Roads

The month of October marks the beginning of the three month deer mating season in Virginia. According to a 2009 study of all 50 states, Virginia drivers have a “high risk” of colliding with a deer during this time period.

Deer tend to travel in herds and remain relatively confined to small areas. The Department of Transportation identifies herds of deer and posts deer-crossing signs in high risk areas. In the coming months, it will be especially important for Virginia drivers to be on the lookout for deer where deer-crossing signs are posted.

In 2008 there were 1.5 million deer-vehicle crashes in the United States. It is estimated that deer cause over $1 billion annually in automobile damages. Virginia specifically has seen an increase in the number of deer-vehicle crashes over the past five years, with 6,918 total crashes in 2008 alone.

In the case of a deer-vehicle collision, it is the responsibility of the driver or the driver’s insurance company to cover any damages associated with the accident. AAA Mid-Atlantic reports that “the average claim paid to a Virginia driver after a deer collision [in 2008] was $2,800.” With damages often surpassing that amount, it is important to carry insurance that will cover any expenses related to a deer-vehicle crash. These figures do not include the Virginia personal injuries caused by car accidents with deer. While sometimes the only damage is to property, a collision with a deer can cause an accident with injuries.

How to Avoid a Deer-Vehicle Collision

  • Go at or below the speed limit in high risk areas with posted deer-crossing signs
  • Deer are most active between 6-9pm, slow down and watch for “eye shine” at the side of the road
  • Use your horn to scare deer out of your path of travel
  • Avoid flashing your lights at the deer; this can cause them to pause and fixate on your vehicle
  • DO NOT SWERVE – you increase your risk of hitting another car or fixed object such as a tree or pole which greatly increases the risk of injuries from the car collision
  • If you are certain that you cannot avoid contact, slow down and release the break immediately before impact, decreasing the risk of the deer penetrating your windshield