RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- It's now fall, and the months of October, November and December are the worst months of the year for crashes involving deer due to the annual rut.
AAA Mid-Atlantic says a collision with a deer can cause serious damage to or even total a vehicle and could also result in injuries or the deaths of people inside the vehicle.
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles says there were more than 5,800 crashes involving collisions with deer last year, of which more than 3,000 occurred during the last three months of the year.
“This time of year is when deer are most active and will often dart out without warning,” said Tammy Arnette, the senior Public Affairs Specialist for AAA. “It is incredibly important for drivers to remain vigilant, alert and distraction-free while driving at all times.”
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety says there are more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle each year across the country, which result in 150 human deaths and tens of thousands of injuries.
AAA Insurance says the average cost of a deer-related claim in Virginia in 2018 was $3,956.
And the National Insurance Crime Bureau says that between 2014 and 2017, of the more than 1.74 million animal-related insurance claims that were processed in the United States, most of the claims involved crashes with deer.
However, the NICB also says the actual number of deer-vehicle incidents is likely higher than reported because many drivers choose not to carry coverage for those kinds of incidents.
The bureau says collision coverage will pay for damage caused by a crash with an object like a pole or guardrail, but comprehensive coverage is needed for damage caused by disasters “other than collisions” such as contacts including collisions with animals.
Deer are most active in the early morning and evening hours, which are also prime commuting hours. Drivers should be vigilant, watching for movement alongside the road and using high beam headlights where possible to improve their ability to see.
If a deer does cross the road in front of your vehicle, AAA says resist the urge to swerve around the animal. Instead, stay in your lane and keep both hands on the wheel. The organization says swerving may confuse the animal and make it so it does not know which way it can run as well as put the vehicle in the path of oncoming traffic or cause a crash into objects on the side of the road.
If a crash cannot be avoided, AAA says to take your foot off the brake, as hard braking causes the nose of your vehicle to pull down, which can cause the deer to go up over the hood and toward the windshield.
Letting off of the brake means the animal will more likely be pushed to one side of the vehicle or over the top of it.
If you are involved in a collision with an animal, call the police immediately and avoid making contact with the animal as a frightened or injured animal can hurt you, further injure itself or potentially cause more damage to the vehicle.
Turn on the vehicle's hazard lights and if possible, move the vehicle out of the roadway to wait for assistance.
Drivers should also contact their insurance company or representative as soon as possible to report damage to the vehicle.
To report a dead deer that need to be removed from state-maintained roads, call (800) 367-7623 or click on the link in the Related Links box.