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Be aware: It’s peak season for deer collisions

deer collisionsCool fall weather brings a sharp rise in insurance claims related to collisions with animals, mainly deer, in parts of the U.S. Last year in Virginia, the odds that your vehicle could strike a deer were 1 in 94.

The deer migration and mating season runs from October through December, causing an increase in movement among Virginia’s deer population and resulting in more collisions during those three months, with the greatest amount in November.

In 2017, Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. had 2,749 claims related to collisions with deer, out of 102,926 personal, commercial and fleet auto policies. This is an increase from 2016, when there were 2,536 claims related to collisions with deer.

The claims led to more than $8.1 million in losses, with an average loss of $2,961 per claim. There were $7.4 million in losses in 2016.

The claims data matches the national October-through-December pattern, with deer-related claims significantly increasing or doubling during those months. There were 379 collisions with deer in October, 501 in November and 305 in December, totaling 1,185 claims for the final quarter of 2017—almost half of all deer collisions claims for the year.

“Even with safety equipment available on vehicles, these accidents are very costly and can cause serious harm to the driver,” said Rick Mattox, VFBMIC senior vice president of claims. “Each year we pay out more in claims because equipment costs more to repair or replace. We also are seeing deer collisions happening more throughout the entire year, so while it is a bigger problem in the last quarter of the year, deer are a year-round problem.”

Drivers should be aware of their surroundings, keeping their peripheral vision focused on the shoulders of the road for movement that might indicate the presence of deer.

Deer are most likely to be seen at dusk and dawn near tree-lined roadways or areas that transition from open fields to forest or water. It’s important to remember that wild animals often exhibit unpredictable behaviors when on or near roadways.

Always slow down if you see a deer run across the road in front of you. It’s likely that there are more deer following that one. Deer crossing signs are posted to warn drivers that certain stretches of road are commonly populated with deer.

When driving after dark, use high-beam headlights to increase your range of vision. If you see a deer on or near the road, slow down immediately and do not swerve. Brake firmly, but keep the vehicle headed in a straight line.