When it comes to destruction, don't ignore the ability of animals to put a serious dent in your vehicle, if not destroy it completely. The Insurance Information Institute reports animals (primarily deer) caused more than 1.2 million collisions with vehicles between July 2012 and June 2013.
The worst month for animal collisions is November, the height of the deer-mating season. These types of collisions also are prevalent in October and December. And as the days get shorter, drivers are more likely to be on the road at dawn and dusk, which are times of high animal activity.
"Deer and other animals are unpredictable and, though you never know when one might dash in front of your vehicle, there are actions you can take to help prevent an accident or to reduce the damage one might cause," said David Weber, vice president of insurance for AAA Western and Central New York.
Tips to Avoid an Animal Collision and to Lessen the Impact if One Occurs
•Always wear a seatbelt. The chances of getting injured when hitting an animal are much higher if you don't have your seatbelt on. Also never drive drunk, distracted or drowsy.
•Keep your eyes moving. Continually sweep your eyes across the road in front of you for signs of animals and movement. Animals also may be alongside the road. While the most likely accident is you hitting an animal, on occasion, they might hit you by running into the side of your car.
•Slow down and watch for other deer to appear. Deer rarely travel alone, so if you see one, there are likely to be one or several more.
•Slow down around curves. Animals are harder to see in advance when going around curves.
•Be especially attentive in early morning and evening. Many animals, especially deer, are most active during these times, roughly 5 to 8 a.m. and 5 to 8 p.m., which include prime commuting times for most people.
•Use high beams when there's no oncoming traffic. You can spot animals sooner. Sometimes the light reflecting off their eyes will reveal their location.
•One long blast. A long blast on your horn may frighten large animals, like deer, away from your vehicle.
•Use brakes if an impact is imminent. Don't swerve. Instead, stay in your lane. Swerving away from animals can confuse them so they don't know which way to run. It can also put you in the path of oncoming vehicles or cause you to crash into something on the side of the road like a lamppost or a tree.
Steps to Take if You Collide with a Deer
•Pull to the side of the road and put your hazard lights on.
•Make sure everyone in the vehicle is uninjured.
•Don't go near or touch a wounded animal. A frightened and wounded animal can be unpredictable and cause injury.
•If it is safe to exit your vehicle, try to light emergency flares or triangles to warn other vehicles.
•Call 911. If you intend to file a claim with your insurance agency for vehicle damage, it is vital to have a police report of the incident.
Animal collisions are covered under the comprehensive portion of most AAA insurance auto policies. For more information, visit any AAA Travel and Insurance Center, call 866-874-7AAA, or click www.AAA.com/Insurance.
As upstate New York's largest member services organization, AAA provides nearly 860,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.