COLUMBUS — The Ohio Department of Insurance, Ohio Highway Patrol, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and AAA want to remind motorists of the increase in deer-related traffic crashes this time of year.
In 2019, statistics from the Ohio State Highway Patrol show there were 19,375 deer-related crashes on Ohio’s roadways. Of those crashes, four resulted in fatal injuries to motorists and 966 people were injured. Additionally, 46 percent of these crashes occurred in October, November, and December.
“I encourage everyone to always be attentive while driving on Ohio’s roadways, especially during this peak time of year for deer-related crashes,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “Always use your safety belt and never drive distracted.”
Some of the top counties for deer-related crashes include Stark, Richland, Lorain, Trumbull, and Hancock with US-30, I-71 and I-80 being the leading roadways in the state.
“Always avoid distractions and keep your full focus on the roadway,” said Colonel Richard Fambro of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. “If you see a deer slow down, but do not swerve. If you strike a deer, move to a safe place if you are able, turn on your hazard lights, and report the crash.”
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), deer become much more active during the fall breeding season which occurs from late October through November. Males pursue prospective mates throughout the season. However, they often encounter females that are not yet willing to breed, which can result in pursuits where deer will dart into roadways with little caution. This action leads to an increase in deer-related vehicle accidents this time of year. Drivers are encouraged to be extra cautious in areas where habitat features (fence rows, riparian corridors, or other blocks of forested habitat) intersect a roadway. Deer and other wildlife use these corridors and patches to traverse the landscape.
“Deer increase their daily movements in the fall months, but they are incredibly unpredictable,” ODNR wildlife Chief Kendra Wecker said. “The best advice to keep everyone safe is to stay alert and remember deer rarely run alone.”
Colliding with a deer is not only dangerous, it’s also very costly. Recent data estimates the average insurance claim for a deer-vehicle collision in Ohio is nearly $4,000. Vehicle sensors found on newer vehicles continue to increase repair costs.
“Ohio drivers should stay focused and avoid distractions at all times, especially this time of year when the deer are extremely active,” said Tynesia Dorsey, interim director of the Ohio Department of Insurance. “I also urge Ohioans to contact their insurance agent to ensure they have appropriate financial protection if an accident occurs.”
AAA and the Ohio Department of Insurance remind drivers that the optional comprehensive coverage (also known as “other than collision” coverage) portion of an auto insurance policy often is used to pay for deer-vehicle damage repair. Collision or liability-only policies do not cover the damage. With the vast number of costly deer-collisions on Ohio’s roads, it is often a good idea to maintain comprehensive coverage, even with older vehicles.
What to do
Scan the road ahead: Looking ahead helps provide enough reaction time if an animal is spotted. Also, remember some animals, like deer, move in groups, so when there is one, there are usually more in the area.
Use high beam headlights if there is no oncoming traffic: This can help you spot deer or other wildlife more quickly and give you time to slow down, move over or honk the horn to scare the animal away. High beams also help in spotting animals’ reflective eyes.
Be extra cautious at dawn and dusk: Deer tend to be more active in the early morning and at dusk. That’s why these are peak times for deer-vehicle collisions.
If a collision is unavoidable, apply the brakes firmly and remain in your lane: Swerving to avoid an animal can often cause a more serious crash or cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Drivers who swerve to miss a deer and hit something else may be charged for an at-fault crash.
Always wear a seatbelt and remain awake, alert, and sober.
What if you hit a deer
Following the collision, call the police.
Avoid making contact with the deer/animal. A frightened and wounded animal can be dangerous and pose a threat when approached or might further injure itself.
Activate the vehicle’s hazard lights whether it’s light or dark outside.
If possible, move the vehicle to a safe location out of the roadway, and wait for help to arrive.
Drivers should contact their insurance agent or company representative as quickly as possible to report any vehicle damage.