Virginia is consistently among the top 15 states with the highest number of deer-vehicle collisions, per Virginia Department of Transportation. Deer-vehicle collisions and deer damage to property continue to increase, primarily due to growing human and deer populations.
Over the past five years, VML Insurance Programs (VMLIP) has received nearly 500 claims involving animal strikes – the majority of which involve deer. Total property damage from these strikes totals more than $1 million in property damage to member vehicles and equipment.
As deer migration and mating season begins in October, the risk of deer strikes increases greatly. Deer are most active at dawn 6 – 8 a.m. and dusk, 6 to 9 p.m.
New Kent County has experienced 27 deer strikes over the last five years. To address this risk, the county applied for VMLIP Risk Management Grant funding to procure 40 Hornet electronic deer avoidance systems. VMLIP awarded the county $3,700 for the purchase and installation of the devices – which are featured in the video below.
The Hornet devices produce a high powered directional sonic wave, which can be tracked at 1600 feet and is designed to alert and deter deer and other animals. Hornet estimates that the device reduces the risk of deer strike by more than 70 percent.
Below are some tips drivers should know to avoid hitting deer while driving:
- Watch for deer crossing signs. Slow down, and be especially alert in these areas. These signs are usually placed in areas where deer-vehicle collisions have already occurred.
- Collisions are more frequent during the deer migration and mating season: October, November and December.
- Be particularly vigilant on roads bordering woodlands, parklands, golf courses, streams, in areas with high foliage, low-hanging branches, on rural two-lane roads, and poorly lit areas.
- Drive below the posted speed limit in areas where deer have been spotted, slower speed allows for more time to react to a deer crossing the road.
- When you spot a deer near the roadway, slow down. Deer are unpredictable, especially when faced with glaring headlights and fast-moving vehicles. They often dart into traffic. Honk your horn to try and scare the deer away from the roadway, but bear in mind, the deer may still enter the roadway.
- One of the best ways to prevent hitting a deer is to avoid distractions. Keep your eyes on the road and scan ahead looking for animals on the shoulders of the road and median strips.
- Deer generally travel in herds – if you see one, there is a strong possibility others are nearby.
- Remember that deer are most active around dawn (6 to 8 a.m.) and dusk (6 to 9 p.m.).
- Use high beam headlamps as much as possible at night to better illuminate the area and the eyes of any deer on or near the roadways.
- Drivers should always wear their seat belts.
If you cannot avoid hitting a deer, take your foot off the brake at the time of impact so that the front end of your vehicle will lift up and enable the deer to go under the car, rather than over it. The danger is that it may crash through the windshield or windows, possibly entering the passenger compartment.
Remember, the most serious accidents occur when motorists lose control of their vehicles trying to avoid an animal; stay in your lane.
For more information on preventing deer strikes, contact your VMLIP Safety Consultant at: 800-963-6800.