No Fawny Business: Motorists’ Cautioned Against Deer on Highways

Phoenix, Nov. 4, 2013. November marks the beginning of deer season for Arizona’s abundant mule deer, as well as the end for the state’s northern elk. As such, AAA Insurance warns drivers to drive smart in order to improve chances of avoiding a collision.

“Fall beckons Arizonans to the northern part of the state, and the chances of encountering elk and deer on the road increase,” said Brad Oltmans, vice president of insurance for AAA Arizona. “As a full-service insurance agency, AAA knows a collision with one of these animals can be costly. And, if you don’t have adequate coverage, you could be financially responsible for any damage incurred to your vehicle.”

According to the Insurance Information Institute (IIHS), vehicle damage from hitting an animal is more than 3½ times as common in November as in August, when claims are lowest. Further, about 1.23 million deer-vehicle collisions occurred nationwide between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012, with a spike during the fall mating season. These collisions are responsible for about 200 deaths nationwide each year.

While deer populate nearly the entire state, elk are primarily located in the northern half of Arizona. Therefore, state highways that have the highest risk of running into wildlife include:

  • State Route 260
  • U.S. Highway 180
  • Interstate 17
  • State Route 87
  • Interstate 40
  • Forest Highway 3
  • State Route 64
  • U.S. Highway 89

To keep humans and animals safe this fall, AAA Insurance encourages drivers to use the following tips when traveling in elk and deer country:

  • Scan the road ahead of you. Looking ahead helps provide enough reaction time if anything, especially an animal, is spotted. Also, remember these animals travel in groups, so when there is one, there are usually more.
  • Use high-beam headlights if there is no oncoming traffic. Animals may be spotted sooner when using high beams allowing time to slow down, move over or honk. There is no conclusive evidence that hood-mounted deer whistles, reflectors, deer fences or other devices work. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends one long blast of the horn to scare them out of the road. If you’re on a multilane road, drive in the center lane, if safe to do so, to give more space to grazing deer.
  • Don’t veer for deer. Swerving to avoid an animal can often cause a more serious crash or result in loss of control behind the wheel. AAA recommends releasing your foot from the brake before impact, to raise the front end of the car and increase the likelihood that the animal will go underneath the vehicle rather than through the windshield.
  • Be extra cautious at dawn and dusk. Drivers should exercise extra caution traveling these areas during the early morning or early evening hours as these tend to be the most active times for these animals. Look for deer-crossing signs that indicate where deer frequently travel.
  • Never drive distracted, drowsy or impaired, and always wear a seatbelt. According to the IIHS, 60 percent of people killed in animal-related crashes were not wearing a seat belt. Also, slow down in order to have more time to react.
  • Maintain adequate coverage. Animal collisions are covered by most auto insurance policies, but only if the vehicle has comprehensive coverage. Drivers should contact their insurance agent to ensure they have adequate coverage, or visit AAA.com/insurance to find an agent and get a quote.

If involved in a crash, drivers should first call local law enforcement to help remove the animal. Avoid touching the animal, as a frightened or wounded deer could cause injuries or further injure itself. AAA Insurance experts recommend drivers make note of the date, time, location, weather and road conditions, and also take photographs, when safe, to document a vehicle collision. Next, drivers should contact their insurance agent to report any damage to vehicles.

AAA Arizona, the Arizona affiliate of AAA, provides automotive, insurance and travel services to more than 825,000 Arizona members. Annually, AAA’s Roadside Assistance responds to more than 450,000 calls for help on Arizona roadways. The auto club also provides insurance, travel, auto repair, discounts and financial services to AAA members. Since its founding in 1927, AAA Arizona has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.