Drivers face a slew of hazards on the road each day ranging from aggressive drivers to weather conditions. However, one of the most dangerous and costly hazards is seasonal and is at its peak right now in Virginia. Statistics from the Insurance Information Institute indicate one of the deadliest traffic hazards this time of year is the white-tailed deer.
Accidents involving deer result in tens of thousands of injuries, approximately 150 deaths and $4.6 billion in insurance claims every year. Most deer-related collisions occur during the months of October, November and December. This is generally attributed to deer mating season and foraging before the winter months. Accidents reach their peak in the month of November.
Two serious accidents in Clarke County involving deer strikes on Route 7 in the past two weeks highlight the danger that increased deer activity poses.
The latest accident occurred Saturday evening on eastbound Route 7 near Wrights Mill Rd. In that incident the driver struck a deer which then came through the windshield of the vehicle and landed in the passenger compartment. There were no serious injuries but eastbound Route 7 was closed as a result of the accident.
In an incident that occurred on October 26th, an early morning deer strike escalated into a two car accident that sent two drivers to the hospital and closed Route 7 at Mount Weather for hours during the morning commute.
Both of these accidents occurred at the peak times for deer activity, dusk and dawn. Twilight poses challenging conditions for drivers and when combined with the unpredictable behavior deer exhibit in close proximity to traffic, it’s a formula for disaster.
To decrease the risk police and other safety officials are asking drivers to slow down and be alert in areas were deer are frequently seen. After dark drivers should use high-beam headlights, when appropriate, to increase their range of vision. Also, if a deer is on or near the road, slow down immediately and be vigilant because where there is one deer there are often many more.
Virginia Farm Bureau Safety Manager Jimmy Maass spoke on the issue and provided advice for drivers saying, “Don’t swerve if a deer is in the road. Brake firmly but keep the vehicle headed in a straight line. Swerving can confuse the animal and prevent it from picking a direction to flee, and, worse yet, the driver could lose control and crash.”
If you do hit a deer or other animal in the road, “make sure everyone in your vehicle is OK and not injured, then call 911 and report the incident,” Maass said. “Keep a safe distance from the animal, especially if it has been injured. Injured animals may hurt you while trying to protect themselves or get away.”