It's peak time for deer-related crashes: What to do if you have one
With the end of daylight savings time comes shorter days, cooler weather and an increase in deer activity.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is advising motorists to slow down and be alert, as the time change has more drivers on the road between dawn and dusk — the peak time for deer activity.
This time of year also marks the lead-up to the start of fall breeding season — also called the “rut” — and an uptick in hunting and activities that might flush deer out of the woods and brush, and a time when deer are more actively feeding to stock up on energy for the winter.
“While the peak of the rut is still a couple weeks off, deer have already increased their activity and are crossing roads,” Executive Director Bryan Burhans said in a release. “While motorists — at any time of year — are well-advised to stay alert and be on the lookout for whitetails while driving, it’s especially important now and in the coming weeks.”
According to a report from State Farm Insurance Company, drivers in Pennsylvania had a 1-in-63 chance of getting in a deer-related crash from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018. That makes Pennsylvania the third-most likely state in the United States for deer collisions, according to State Farm.
And the chances of hitting a deer or other large animal double in the fall. The months with the most deer-related claims are November, October and December, in that order, State Farm data shows.
The costs of a deer-related collisions can be both financial and in personal injury — even death.
“Deer-related crashes and collisions can cause serious injury and thousands of dollars in property damage,” acting state police Commissioner Lt. Col. Robert Evanchick said in a release. “Drivers should slow down, buckle up and never drive distracted to keep themselves and their passengers safe.”
The costs of deer-related insurance claims have increased 3.9 percent from last year — from $4,179 to $4,341 — according to State Farm.
Overall, total deer-related crashes in Pennsylvania rose from 5,468 in 2016 to 5,674 in 2017, and deer-related fatalities increased from 13 to 17.
To help avoid deer collision, State Farm offers the following tips:
• Slow down, particularly between dawn and dusk.
• If you see one deer, prepare for more to cross the road. Deer travel in family groups and in single-file lines.
• Pay attention to deer-crossing signs.
• Always buckle up.
• Use high beams to see farther, unless there’s ongoing traffic.
• Brake if you can, but avoid swerving.
• Focus on the road. Scan for hazards, including animals.
• Avoid distractions. Eating or using devices might cause a distraction and/or decrease reaction time.
• Do not rely on products such as deer whistles, which have proven ineffective.
• If riding a motorcycle, focus on the road ahead and always wear protective gear.
Even the most diligent drivers can’t always avoid deer collision, especially in Pennsylvania. State Farm encourages those who do find themselves in a collision with a deer to do the following:
• Move your vehicle to a safe place on the side of the road, if possible, and turn on your hazard lights.
• Call the police if the deer is blocking traffic or creating a hazard for other drivers, and to fill out an official report if the collision resulted in injury or property damage.
• Document the incident. If it’s safe, take photos of the roadway, your surroundings, resulting vehicle damage and injuries.
• Stay away from the deer.
• Contact your insurance company as soon as possible.
• Check to make sure your vehicle is driveable by looking for leaking fluids, loose parts, tire damage, broken lights, a hood that won’t latch or other safety hazards. If the vehicle seems unsafe, call a tow truck.
Not at fault
By law in Pennsylvania, crashes that result in one or more vehicles being damaged to the point that they cannot be driven from the scene and those that result in injury or death must be reported to the police.
A crash involving a deer, other animal or fowl is considered a not-at-fault accident under Pennsylvania law, meaning insurers cannot add a surcharge to your premium, according to the state Insurance Commission.
A driver is not required to report the crash to the Game Commission. If the deer dies, Pennsylvania residents only can claim the carcass by calling the regional game commission office within 24 hours of taking the deer. A passing motorist can also take the deer, if the driver involved in the collision doesn’t want it.
The Game Commission office in Fairfield Township, Westmoreland County, serves Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland counties. Phone numbers are 724-238-9523 and 724-238-9524.
PennDOT can also be called at 800-FIX-ROADS to remove deer carcasses from state-maintain roads.
Lauren Muthler is a Centre Daily Times writer.