AAA: Keep an eye on the roads as we enter peak deer collision season

Fall has arrived, and with it, the peak time of year for car collisions involving deer.

Animal collisions start to increase in October and peak in mid-November, according to AAA spokesperson Marilyn Buskohl.

Data from the South Dakota Department of Public Safety says there were 4,476 wild animal crashes reported in the state in 2018. A majority of those took place in the last three months of the year.

Buskohl said while striking a deer during this season is common, drivers swerving in an attempt to miss the deer is another common cause for crashes. This can be a fatal mistake, because the driver may hit an oncoming motorist head-on.

AAA offered the following tips to help you stay safe on the roads:

• Pay attention to road signs. Yellow, diamond-shaped signs with an image of a deer indicate areas with high levels of deer activity.
• Continually scan roadways. Drivers should continuously sweep their eyes across the road in front of the vehicle looking for signs of animals and movement. Animals may also travel alongside the road, so make sure to look along both sides of the roadway, as well. While the most likely crash happens when drivers strike an animal, on occasion the animal may run into the vehicle.
• Be especially attentive in early morning and evening hours. Many wild animals, especially deer, are most active from 5-8 a.m. and 5-8 p.m. – prime commuting times for many people.
• Use high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic. To spot animals sooner. Sometimes the light reflecting off their eyes will reveal their location.
• Slow down, and watch for other deer to appear. Deer rarely travel alone, so if drivers see one, there are likely to be more nearby.
• Slow down around curves. It’s harder to spot animals when going around curves.
• One long blast. A long blast of a horn may frighten animals away from the vehicle.
• Resist the urge to swerve: Instead, drivers need to concentrate on keeping the vehicle in the marked lanes of travel with both hands firmly on the wheel. Swerving away from animals may place drivers in the path of oncoming vehicles or result in a crash with something along the roadway like a lamppost or a tree.
• If the deer collision crash is imminent drivers should take their foot off the brake: during hard braking the front end of the vehicle is pulled downward which can cause the animal to travel up over the hood towards the windshield. Letting off the brake can protect drivers from windshield strikes because the animal is more likely to be pushed to one side of the vehicle or over the top of the vehicle.
• Always wear a seatbelt.
• Never drive impaired, distracted or drowsy.
• Drivers should consider purchasing comprehensive insurance, if they don’t already have it. Comprehensive insurance is the type of insurance that covers animal strikes.