DEER: The $1 Billion Problem

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), collisions with deer result in about $1 billion in vehicle damage and cause 150 deaths each year. More than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions occur each year in the United States, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates.

You’re more likely to cross paths with deer during the fall, which is their mating season. Insurance claims for collisions with animals rise dramatically in the last three months of the year. Combine deer mating season with fewer hours of daylight, and it’s a recipe for disaster if you’re not paying attention to your surroundings. Also, if the braking system is compromised with worn or corrosion damaged brake pads, the chances and cost of a collision with a deer increase.

AAA advises drivers to heed speed-limit and deer-crossing signs, and stay especially alert for deer at dawn and dusk, when they’re most active. If you do see one crossing or standing beside the road, slow down—deer can be highly unpredictable, and because they often travel in herds, there are likely others nearby. Don’t bother with gimmicks: Flashing high-beam headlights or honking your horn won’t keep deer off the road.

If you can’t avoid hitting a deer, don’t swerve but do brake firmly. Hold on to the steering wheel and stay in your lane. Then bring your vehicle to a controlled stop.

AAA once gave the advice that if a crash can’t be avoided, to release the brakes. This is bad advice for a modern vehicle and can cause more damage. The logic behind the old recommendation was when the brakes have released the front of the vehicle would rise so the deer would not go over the hood and through the windshield. But modern windshields and mounting methods can withstand deer impacts.

By releasing the brakes, the severity of the impact is increased. Also, the driver could lose control. It is also great advice for drivers to have their brakes inspected to make sure all parts are in good working order.