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Tips On How To Avoid Colliding With Deer and Moose

Updated on September 3, 2015
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The Toll Is High In Damage, Injuries and Cost

Spring is the time, as the poets say, when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love. However, fall is the time when a young buck’s or bull's fancy turns to thoughts of love, and that spells danger for everyone else.

Autumn is generally considered the season when most collisions with deer and moose occur. Such accidents can happen anytime throughout the year, of course, but they're particularly frequent between mid-September and the end of the year, and for a variety of reasons.

For one, breeding bucks are scraping the felt off their antlers (or are they horns, and is there a difference anyway?) in preparation for the rut. Bachelors are wandering aimlessly trying to A: gain the courage to challenge a breeding buck, B: avoid breeding bucks and C: maybe sneak a tryst with a cute little doe. Sort of reminds me of how my buddies and I spent the early 1960s.

In response to variations in the photoperiod (amount of daylight) and fluctuations in temperature, wild animals are gearing up for the deep freeze; growing winter coats and bulking up on food. So, deer are going after corn, apples and other bounty from fall's cornucopia, and the last of the natural vegetation available to them. After that’s gone, they’ll come for your ornamental plantings.

Certainly none of them are paying any attention to traffic. Not all of us humans are, either. We can all tell each other stories about drivers we've seen texting, applying make up, shaving, eating breakfast, and talking on the phone, all while driving.

Add to that the expanded hours of darkness and the sun's low position in the sky during the commute and you've got the recipe for deer/vehicle collisions and their attendant costs in property damage, personal injury, and death.

In terms of human injury, loss of life, costs of medical treatment, vehicle repairs, and miscellaneous expenses, the numbers are alarming. According to estimates by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), (www.iii.org) there are more than 1.23 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in 200 occupant deaths, tens of thousands of injuries and over $4 billion just in vehicle damage.

They estimate that another billion dollars is spent on medical payments for injuries to people in the car, and out-of-pocket expenses paid by vehicle owners. Now you’re talking more than 4 and a half billion dollars!

Statistically, the average claim for deer-vehicle collisions is $3,300. A lot depends on the type of vehicle involved and the severity of the damage. But when you factor in claims involving bodily injury, the average rises to over $11,000.

Deer/vehicle collisions aren't new, of course, but until just last year, the frequency of them has shot up tremendously since the latter part of the 20th century. There are a number of reasons why, and most of them have to do with human encroachment on wildlife habitat.

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Highways are a major cause of wildlife deaths, and it's not just because of the high volume of speeding vehicles traveling on them. Highways fragment wildlife territories, which forces animals to cross the roads in search of food, cover, mates, and nesting or denning sites. By breaking up wildlife habitats we’re also cramming more animals into areas that are just too small for nature to support.

Not only that, but the construction and use of roads alters the environment in the area both chemically and physically, plus it allows for the introduction of potentially invasive species. Once road construction is complete, commercial or residential development often follows, and that crowds out the animals even more.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) reports that a number of European countries have taken the lead in reconnecting wildlife habitats fragmented by roads. Overpasses have been designed and constructed specifically to funnel wildlife across major highways.

While some can accommodate both wildlife and people, others are just for the animals, and include small ponds, wetlands and fruiting shrubs. They also build amphibian tunnels and underpasses for small mammals such as otters and hedgehogs.

Since we're not there yet, we have to be on the lookout for critters crossing the roads. And that includes within urban and suburban neighborhoods as well as along rural highways. While many of us have reduced the population of squirrels and opossums with our vehicles, not that many of us have collided with a deer, and we want to keep it that way.

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10 Things To Keep In Mind For Your Safety


1. The "season" for deer/auto collisions is from mid-September to late December, for moose, it's September and October, although such accidents have been known to occur at any time of the year.

2. Dawn and dusk are the most dangerous times because that's when the deer are more active (back on the block we just said they were crepuscular) and visibility is the worst. Phenomena such as solar glare from the rising or setting sun, and the dim light of dawn and dusk make it difficult to see clearly.

3. Deer often won't just dart across the road. In their frightened state they may become disoriented and run halfway across and then back again, they may run down the middle of the road, or they may just come to a screeching halt, frozen by the glare of your headlights. Moose simply may not be as quick to move out of your way.

4. Deer often travel in small herds, so if you see one cross the road ahead of you, be on the lookout for others that may be following not too far behind.

5. When driving at night, use your high beams whenever there's no on-coming traffic. The deer's eyes will glow when picked up by headlights thanks to a lining in the back of the eye that acts like a mirror. Because moose are much taller, their heads are usually above headlight level, so you may not see a glow from their eyes.

6. Slow down and give one long blast on your horn to frighten deer or moose up ahead. If there's one in your path, brake firmly but stay in your lane. Serious injuries and damage can occur when you swerve to avoid a deer and hit another car or go off the road.

7. Check with your insurance company about coverage. A collision with a deer is usually covered under the comprehensive part of your policy, but if you cause other damage or injury, that usually comes under your collision coverage, however you might be found at fault.

8. If you hit a deer or moose don't try to help it in any way. An injured and frightened deer can seriously hurt you or further injure itself. Get your car off the road if you can, and call the police.

9. Wear your seat belt. The I.I.I. says that most people injured in a deer/vehicle collision were not wearing their seat belts.

10. Don't rely on devices such as deer whistles, reflectors and fences. There's no accepted proof that those devises reduce auto/deer collisions.

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Moose Present A Different Set of Dangers

If you live in an area with a moose population, you should be aware of the special problems they pose. They breed in September and October and, like the deer, are preoccupied with the reproductive imperative, making them both bold and careless.

Between dusk and dawn, moose are harder to see because of their dark color and their height. In most cases, their head is above the beam of headlights, thus you don't see the glow of their eyes like you do with deer.

Also with moose, their physical structure makes them more likely to injure or kill the occupants of a vehicle that collides with them. Their long legs and top heavy bodies make it easier for them to be propelled over the hood and directly into the windshield.

And finally, moose are less likely than deer to move from the road as your vehicle approaches.

Using data from claims filed by their insureds, State Farm Insurance, which is America’s leading auto insurer, creates a Top 5 list of states in which drivers are most likely to be involved in a deer/vehicle collision.

For the sixth year in a row, West Virginia is first, with the likelihood of a West Virginia motorist striking a deer sitting at 1 in 40. South Dakota comes in second with a1 in 68 chance of a deer/vehicle collision. Iowa at 1 in 71.9 is third, Michigan is a close fourth at 1 in 72.4, and Pennsylvania rounds out the top 5 at 1 in 76. It wasn't too long ago that PA knocked off MI as the top spot for deer/vehicle collisions.

I love this paragraph, which I lifted from their website: www.statefarm.com/about-us/newsroom/2012/10/23/deer-vehicle-confrontations

"The state in which deer-vehicle mishaps are least likely is still Hawaii (1 in 6,801). The odds of a driver in Hawaii colliding with a deer are approximately equal to the odds that any one person will be struck by lightning during his or her lifetime.

By the way, there is a difference between antlers and horns. Antlers are shed annually, are composed totally of bone and are forked. Horns are permanent, have a bony center, a keratin coating, and are not forked.

Have You Ever Struck A Deer With Your Vehicle?

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    • mbergo profile image

      mbergo 4 years ago from Porto Alegre, Brazil

      I had a front collision with a moose around 20 years ago in Norway and the timing fits with what you said. In my case it also was foggy and the speed was excessive.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hello, mbergo, thanks for stopping by and sharing your story. I think you were fortunate to escape alive from a high speed collision with a moose. Not much chance of that happening in Brazil, although you do have to watch out for those jaguars...the four-legged, in addition to the four-wheeled kind. Thanks for commenting. Regards, Bob

    • Nadene Seiters profile image

      Nadene Seiters 4 years ago from Elverson, PA

      I drove behind a deer for about half a mile before she had the epiphany that she should veer off into the trees. It was a very long half a mile. There's a ton of deer around my home and I always make sure to keep an eye out for them. Great article!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Nadene, yeah, you guys are loaded with them down there! For a few years you were number 1 in deer/vehicle collisions but you were fourth last year.

      I started checking stats just before Y2K and the first column I wrote informed my readers that Massachusetts had over 4,000 such collisions according to a state environmental group.

      That group referenced the Insurance Information Institute so I went on their web site. Holy crap! That year Michigan had over 86,000 and many other states had tens of thousands of them. I had to modify the column because I almost made it sound like we were near crisis proportions! What a dumb-slap that was! Thanks for commenting. Regards, Bob

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