Be careful out there: November is prime time for deer strikes

Autumn is mating time, and that means excited animals chasing each other around and across our state’s highways and byways. If you’re headed out into the country this fall, you should be aware that there is a good chance you could encounter deer, elk, moose and the like.

It may be delightful to view the animals, but these encounters can be extremely dangerous. The number of insurance claims for large animal strikes rises sharply in the fall, peaking in November.

The insurance company State Farm estimates that there could be as many as 1.33 million large animal strikes this coming year. Your chance of hitting one in Alabama? About 1 in 136.

According to the most recent data available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 189 people were killed in animal-related crashes in 2016. A spokesperson for the institute notes that the majority of human fatalities occur either when a collision causes a motorcyclist to fall off their bike or when a passenger vehicle runs off the road.

“Most of the human deaths would be prevented if every driver buckled up and every motorcyclist wore a helmet,” he told Consumer Reports.

The problem, according to the head of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center, is that deer and other large animals are much more active this time of year. At the same time, the number of daylight hours is dwindling. There are more dark hours when it’s hard to see an animal approaching the road.

Ordinarily, there is little recourse for people who are injured by striking large animals. It’s just a fact of life, and your own auto insurance should cover most of the cost. Sometimes, however, inattentive motorists fail to notice cars stopped after animal strikes. They may plow into stopped or disabled vehicles or hit vehicle occupants who have exited their vehicles after a crash. When that occurs, the victim may wish to contact an experienced personal injury attorney.

Here are a few tips Consumer Reports presented on how to avoid a large animal strike:

Buckle up. According to the IIHS, about 60% of people killed in collisions with animals aren’t wearing seat belts.

Anytime you’re traveling through deer country, slow down. Deer are most active at dawn and between about 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Be aware of regular crossings. Watch out for deer crossing signs. If this is your regular route, be aware of where you consistently notice animals grazing.

If you see an animal by the road, slow down further and, at night, put your high beams on.

If you see one animal, assume there will be more. Deer tend to travel in groups, so don’t assume you’re safe once a single deer has crossed.

Deer whistles are unreliable. These devices are often installed on front bumpers to scare animals away. However, animal behavior is unpredictable, so don’t rely on a whistle to keep you safe.

If an animal is in the road, brake instead of swerving. If you swerve to avoid an animal, you may lose control of your car, strike another car or leave the roadway. Plus, the animal may become confused about where to go to avoid being hit. Your odds of survival are much higher when hitting an animal than they are hitting another car or a tree.

If you do hit an animal, move your car off the road and call the police. Do not approach the injured animal. Take pictures of the scene and damage, especially if another vehicle is involved, and contact your insurance company.

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