Doe! Buck Your Chances of Hitting a Deer

Phoenix, Nov. 1, 2012. You never want to be – or see – a deer in headlights, especially when driving. November marks the beginning of deer season for Arizona’s abundant mule deer, as well as the end for the state’s northern elk, prompting AAA Insurance to warn drivers to drive smart in order to improve your chances of avoiding a collision.

“As fall weather beckons Arizonans to the northern part of the state, the chances of encountering elk and deer on the road go up,” said Brad Oltmans, vice president of insurance for AAA Arizona. “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), 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.

The average claim for deer-vehicle collisions between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012 was $3,305, up 4.4 percent from the previous year, per IIHS. Add in injury costs, and that claim can rise exponentially.

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, and 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.
  • Do not swerve if a collision is unavoidable. 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 animals tend to be more active during these times. 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 can hurt you and further injure itself. Next, drivers should contact their insurance agent to report any damage to your car.

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. The AAA Insurance app can help walk drivers through the process. The free app also provides one-touch access to notify emergency services, to request a tow from AAA, and to reach the AAA Insurance claims department for policyholders. For more information, visit AAA.com/mobile.

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.