CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — It’s fall. The leaves are changing. It’s getting dark earlier. And it is prime season for animal collisions for drivers.
Fall is the breeding season for deer. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources says deer will be more active during breeding season than any other time of the year.
There is a one in 72 chance of hitting an animal while driving in Virginia, according to a new report from State Farm Insurance — and 67% of those collisions are accidents involving deer.
Virginia drivers rank 12th in the nation for animal collisions that include deer, dogs, and various other animals.
In 2019, State Farm reported 13,067 auto claims for animal collisions in Virginia — with 1.96 million nationally.
COVID-19 also brought an impact on deer collisions. There has been a 20% decrease due to less drivers being on the road.
For areas like suburban Chesterfield County, close-calls with deer are not a rarity for drivers.
“I’ve had a few myself,” Mike Parham said. “When I see them, I just know to slow down because there’s no telling what you’re gonna get.”
Parham says he is no stranger to the amount of deer in the county.
“I’ve seen groups of 20-30 deer just congregating together. Here they come. Could be one could be 10. The best thing is obeying the speed limit, pay attention, and be careful behind the wheel. But know if you see one deer, there is a strong possibility that there’s gonna be multiple deer following,” Parham said.
Martha Meade of AAA Mid-Atlantic said that October, November, and December are the months deer are the most active — with November being the peak of their season.
“In Virginia, right here in Chesterfield County and Henrico County, we have the third and fourth highest number of crashes in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia,” Meade said.
She said that staying in tune with your surrounds and minimizing all distractions while driving are important for staying safe on the roadways, especially at dawn and dusk when deer are most active.
“If you know you are going to crash with a deer, take your foot off of the brake at the very last second before the crash,” Meade said. “The brake tends to push the nose of the car down, and when you take your foot off of the brake. The nose will come up a bit and it will help keep the deer from going over your hood and throw it under the car which is the better situation.”
To report a dead deer for removal from Virginia state maintained roads, drivers can call the Virginia Department of Transportation customer service center at 1-800-367-7623 or submit a request online at https://my.vdot.virginia.gov/.
The Virginia DWR says, anyone wishing to keep roadkill such as a deer or bear for personal use must report the accident to a law enforcement officer and have the officer view the animal and provide a possession certificate.
AAA offers this advice to prevent crashes and reduce damages from animal collisions:
- Pay attention to road signs. Yellow, diamond-shaped signs with an image of a deer indicate areas with high levels of deer activity.
- Don’t drive distracted. Continually scan roadways. Drivers should continuously sweep their eyes across the road in front of the vehicle looking for signs of animals and movement. Animals may also travel alongside the road, so make sure to look along both sides of the roadway, as well. While the most likely crash happens when drivers strike an animal, on occasion the animal may run into the vehicle.
- Be especially attentive in early morning and evening hours. Many animals, especially deer, are most active from 5-8 a.m. and 5-8 p.m., prime commuting times for many.
- Use high beams when there is no oncoming traffic. You can spot animals sooner. Sometimes the light reflecting off their eyes will reveal their location.
- Slow down, and watch for other deer to appear. Deer rarely travel alone, so if you see one, there are likely to be more nearby.
- Slow down around curves. It is harder to spot animals when going around curves.
- One long blast. A long blast on your horn may frighten animals away from your vehicle.
- Resist the urge to swerve: Instead, stay in your lane with both hands firmly on the wheel. Swerving away from animals can confuse them so they don’t know which way to run. It can also put you in the path of oncoming vehicles or cause you to crash into something like a lamppost or a tree.
- If the crash is imminent, take your foot off the brake: during hard braking the front end of your vehicle is pulled downward which can cause the animal to travel up over the hood towards your windshield. Letting off the brake can protect drivers from windshield strikes because the animal is more likely to be pushed to one side of the vehicle or over the top of the vehicle.
- Always wear a seatbelt. The chances of being injured when hitting an animal are much higher if you do not have your seatbelt on.
- Drivers should consider purchasing comprehensive insurance, if they don’t already have it. Comprehensive insurance is the type of insurance that covers animal strikes.
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