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To swerve or not to swerve: tips on driving during deer season

To swerve or not to swerve: That is the question. So before leaping to an answer, consider these statistics:

• A collision with some form of wildlife occurs on average every 39 minutes.

• 89% of all wildlife collisions occur on roads with two lanes, with 84% occurring in good weather on dry roads.

• The average repair cost of a car-deer collision is $2,800.

• Approximately 200 motorists die in the U.S. each year from car-deer collisions.

• Deer collisions are most likely to occur during deer breeding season, from October through early January, when they are highly active and on the move.

• Prime times to find deer near the roadside are around dawn and from dusk to late evening. As pack animals, deer almost never travel alone. So, if you see one, be assured that others are close by.

No matter where you drive – from rural roads to suburban streets and highways around cities, the threat of a collision with a deer is quite real. Deer collision accidents are on the rise, partially because deer are being displaced from their natural habitat by urban sprawl and because the deer population is growing.

In fact, the Insurance Information Institute reports that more than 1.6 million deer-vehicle collisions occur each year. Not only do these accidents cause vehicle damage, injuries and fatalities but their estimates cost in the neighborhood of $4.6 billion.

Deer Season Driving Tips

• The two most important ways to avoid a deer-vehicle collision are: slow down & SLOW DOWN! That deer calmly standing on the roadside may suddenly leap into your path without warning.

• Always wear a seatbelt. 60% of fatal animal crashes occurred when the driver was not wearing a seatbelt.

• Use your high beams to increase your visibility whenever the road is free of oncoming traffic. This will give you more time to react.

• If you’re driving on a multi-lane road, drive in the center lane to give as much space to grazing deer as possible.

• Don’t rely on hood whistles or other devices designed to scare off deer which haven’t been proven to work. Experts recommend flashing your lights and one long blast of the horn to scare them out of the road.

• To answer the swerve-or-not-to-swerve dilemma, experts advise NOT swerving. Swerving can confuse the deer on where to run. Swerving can cause head-on collisions with oncoming vehicles, take you off the roadway into a tree or ditch and greatly increase the chances of serious injuries.

• If a deer does move into your path, maintain control and do your best to brake and give deer time to get out of your way.

• If you drive in a state that uses road salt, know that deer (and other wildlife) embrace it as a condiment, increasing the chances of deer appearing along the side of the roads.

If you do collide with a deer, call emergency services if injuries are involved. Never touch an animal that is the roadway. If you have damage to your vehicle or to someone else’s property, notify your insurance agent as soon as possible with details.

These helpful safety tips are provided by the Lane Berenschot Agency, American Family Insurance, Glenwood City and Colfax.