Virginia Drivers Get Warning About Deer-Car Collision Dangers

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) recently released an update about its three-year study of deer travel patterns to identify strategic locations to reduce animal-vehicle car accidents.

The VDOT says it is focused on a section of Interstate 64 on Afton Mountain in Albemarle, Augusta and Nelson counties in northwest Virginia due to the high number of related crashes in those areas.

When the study began in 2012, deer-vehicle collisions were the third most frequent type of accident in the region, accounting for up to 30 percent of all crashes, the VDOT news release says.

The study is to be completed in late 2015.

Research Goal is to Minimize Deer-Car Crash Risks

According to VDOT, there have been 300 traffic accident-related deer fatalities from 2012 to 2014 on I-64 along Afton Mountain, which is about 90 miles northwest of Richmond. Also, there were 10 black bear deaths in the same area in September and October 2013.

“Our goal through this valuable research is to come to the table with recommended locations for cost-effective strategies to help mitigate these crashes, increase safety and reduce the significant dangers that can occur when wildlife and motorists meet on the roadway,” Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick says in the VDOT news release.

This is a significant concern. Hitting a deer can do extensive damage to a car and seriously injure a vehicle’s driver and passengers. Hitting a deer can lead to a significant insurance claim, with such an accident typically paid for through comprehensive coverage. (Read more about insurance issues in Virginia car accidents.)

Virginia ranks 10th among 17 “high-risk” states for hitting a deer, with a 1 in 103 chance of such a collision, according to State Farm Insurance. West Virginia tops the list as the most likely place to hit a deer, with a 1 in 140 chance, a State Farm survey indicates.

The least likely state for a deer-vehicle collision is Hawaii, with a 1 in 6,801 chance, which researchers compared to the likelihood of being struck by lightning.

State Farm estimates that 1.23 million collisions caused by the presence of deer occurred in the U.S. between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average cost per insurance claim for collision damage in a deer-car crash is $2,800, with costs varying depending on the type of vehicle and severity of damage. When you factor in auto claims involving bodily injury, the average rises to $10,000.

How Can You Avoid Hitting a Deer?

To avoid hitting a deer, the following steps may be helpful:

  • Be alert to increased deer activity from sunset to midnight, and especially from sunset to 9 p.m.
  • Trust those “deer crossing” signs you often see in rural areas. They are put in areas where wildlife research indicates deer will, in fact, cross the road often.
  • If you see one deer, watch for more. They tend to travel in herds.
  • High beams at night will better illuminate the eyes of deer on or near the roadway.
  • A long blast on your car’s horn is better than repeated honking to scare deer away. Such devices as deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors have not been proved to deter deer.
  • Do not swerve to miss a deer. You could lose control of your vehicle or run into another lane of traffic.

If a collision is inevitable, brake firmly but let up from the brake just before impact. When braking hard, the nose of the car dips, which makes it more likely for a deer to crash into or through the windshield.

Also, if you hit a deer, follow these eight steps to take after a car accident as they apply.