• R.F Wittmeyer
  • October 6, 2015

It’s October in Illinois and that means deer hunting season has officially begun.  While this is good news for hunters and bad news for deer, this time of year can also be hazardous to drivers as October also means deer become much more active both in the woods and on the road due to mating season.

The first precaution to remember is to pay attention to deer crossings signs. You may recall around this time a few years ago when a North Carolina woman called in to her local radio station complaining that deer crossings signs were stationed on busy roads and proposed that the signs be moved to low-traffic areas in an effort to encourage deer to cross at a safer location.  Although she may have had a misunderstanding about the purpose of these signs she was spot on in pointing out that deer are notorious for crossing the road at dangerous locations day and night.

I Live in Illinois. Do I Need to Worry About Deer Crossings?

According to State Farm the odds of getting into a collision with a deer are 1 in 211.  Although that is lower than the national average, the number of deer versus car accidents in Illinois increases annually.  Collisions with deer differ from your common car accident in that they typically only involve one car and therefore one party’s insurance.  On the other hand, auto-deer collisions are akin to the average crash in that they can and often do produce severe injuries and property damage.

How Can I Avoid a Deer Collision?

Collisions with deer are common during the fall and can be very dangerous as they more difficult to foresee and prevent than collisions with other vehicles on the road.  Luckily there are some steps a driver can take to decrease the odds of being involved in an auto-deer collision:

  • In areas known for their deer population, be wary of wooded spots with low-visibility where a deer could dart out undetected. In the northwest suburbs, specific areas to be cautious include around the Des Plaines River and Busse Woods. Deer crossings signs can alert you of these locations.
  • As it is permitted by law, use your high beam headlights at night to better illuminate the sides of the roadway. It may also help with seeing the “eyeshine” of deer (reflection of headlights in the deer’s eyes). (http://web.extension.illinois.edu/deer/public.cfm)
  • Remember! Deer often travel in groups so if you see one remain watchful as there is a good chance more will follow.
  • Stay alert while driving and follow the speed limit. This includes refraining from text messaging and using only hands-free electronic devices, especially in Illinois where it is illegal.
  • Be especially cautious around dawn and dusk when deer activity is high and visibility tends to be low.
  • On a multi-lane road, the center lane is the safest location to avoid a deer collision, as long as your local traffic laws permit it. This gives deer plenty of space and gives you more time to react if one darts across your path.
  • If a deer does run out in front of your vehicle, do not swerve! Brake firmly and calmly, taking special care to maintain your own lane.  Swerving may cause you to lose control of your vehicle while jerking the wheel increases the risk of veering into oncoming traffic.
  • Honk your horn if you see a deer to try and scare it away from approaching.

What Do I Do After A Deer Accident?

We hope that the above precautions keep you out of deer and harm’s way but if you do find yourself having collided with a deer, here are some steps you should take after the accident:

  • Move your vehicle to a safe place, preferably out of traffic. Turn on hazard lights to make yourself more visible while waiting for responders.  Many accidents happen at night so be careful. If you must exit your vehicle stay out of the road and away from traffic.
  • Call 911. If you or an occupant of your vehicle suffered a personal injury as a result of the accident, request an ambulance respond to assess any injuries and determine whether or not you need to take a trip to the hospital.  If the accident is property damage only request police response as many insurance companies require an official police report.
  • Document the incident by taking pictures of the roadway, any damage sustained to the vehicle, and injuries suffered by occupants.
  • Stay away from the deer, even if it appears incapacitated, as it may be only wounded. Startling it could cause it to react aggressively putting your safety and the safety of others at risk.  When calling 911 let the authorities know if the deer is becoming aggressive or if it is obstructing the roadway.
  • Contact your insurance company as quickly as possible. The sooner you make a claim the sooner an agent can file and process it.  You will need to file a comprehensive claim with your insurance company as comprehensive coverage is the only type that will protect a driver in this type of accident.  You will not be protected if you only carry liability insurance or collision coverage.
  • If you have suffered any injuries, contact your physician.

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