RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As the days get shorter and November comes into swing, AAA is warning drivers to stay alert behind the wheel during the peak month of deer-related crashes in Virginia.

Commonly referred to as “rut,” November marks the time of year when deer breeding season comes into full effect. AAA says the breeding season directly coincides with the time of year when deer-vehicle collisions are most frequent, according to data gathered from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

DMV data from 2021 shows a noticeable spike in the number of deer-vehicle crashes in October, November and even in December as compared to the rest of the year. As expected, alongside the crashes, a spike in injuries is also seen at the end of the year.

The average cost of a car hitting an animal in Virginia in 2021 was $4,800, according to AAA, and many Virginians may be left wondering ‘who pays the bill?’

  • Collision coverage pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with an object (a telephone pole, a guardrail, a mailbox), or as a result of flipping over.
  • Comprehensive coverage is for damage to your car covered by disasters “other than collisions,” contacts (in this case, contact or collision with animals) and are paid for under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy. This is the coverage that would cover animal strikes.

“Across Virginia, deer have become much more noticeable along roadways and residential streets, leading to an increase in deer strikes,” said Morgan Dean, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic in a release. “With that in mind, AAA is urging drivers to drive defensively and remain alert behind the wheel, especially at dawn and dusk, when deer are most active.”

Chesterfield, Henrico and even Hanover fall within the top ten localities for deer hits in Virginia, according to 2021 data from the DMV.

To stop a crash with a deer, or any animal, from occurring, AAA says the most important prevention method is paying attention, especially in the early morning and evening. Drivers should also slow down around curves and use high beams when the road is clear of oncoming traffic.

To brace yourself for imminent impact, AAA says a last-ditch effort consisting of one long blast of your horn may scare the animal away. If not, stay in your lane with both hands firmly on the wheel and take your foot off the brake. Braking forces the car hood to dip down, which increases the possibility of the animal rolling up the hood and crashing into the windshield.

If you are unlucky enough to hit a deer, AAA says after the collision, you should:

  • Call the police.
  • Avoid making contact with the animal.
  • Turn on your hazard lights.
  • Move your car to a safe location if possible.
  • Contact your insurance agency to report any damage to your car.