Why Motorists May Want To Think Twice Before Swerving To Avoid A Deer

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HARRISBURG, PA. (Erie News Now) – In 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PENNDOT) reported 5,581 deer-related crashes, up from 4,300 crashes in 2019.  

The 2020 crashes resulted in 1,028 injuries and four fatalities.

This week, Pennsylvania officials are reminding motorists to be aware of deer on the roadways.

Specifically, about two things all Pennsylvania motorists should be aware of.

The first is the higher risk for deer-related crashes this time of year. According to insurance industry reports, November is when drivers are most likely to have a deer-related crash, followed by October and then December.

One reason for the higher risk, peak mating season. Also known as the “rut.” The rut occurs in both the fall and spring.

The rut causes more activity from deer, which are usually most active during dawn and dusk.

“During the rut, they move more throughout the day,” said Travis Lau, Communications Director at the Pennsylvania Game Commission. “It’s a time of ramped up activity.”

The second important thing to remember, is how insurance plays a role in deer collisions.

Pennsylvania law protects drivers in deer accidents by excluding them from higher insurance premiums. It prevents insurance companies from adding a surcharge to auto insurance premiums for wildlife collisions.

However, the exclusion does not apply if you do not actually hit the deer.

“That protection only does apply if you do physically hit a deer,” said Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner, Jessica Altman.

Altman says this has been the case for a while and it prevents false reporting to avoid an insurance surcharge.

“People could report a deer-related incident to avoid the premium surcharge even though there was no deer.  Unfortunately, we do see that type of misreporting,” said Altman.

There are ways to exercise caution when on the roads, to hopefully avoid a collision.

“Deer rarely travel alone. So, if you see one deer, there are probably more in front of it, behind it, around it somewhere, and that’s a time to know you need to be extra vigilant,” said Altman.

The PA Game Commission says that it is incredibly important to pay attention to deer crossing signage too.

“Those signs aren’t placed at random; they’re put in areas that are known to have a high instance of deer-vehicle collisions because they’re known crossing areas,” said Lau.

“It’s important to remember to stay alert, buckle up, and try not to swerve your car. If an animal collision is inevitable, stay on the road,” said Altman.

The Dept. of Insurance and the Pennsylvania State Police urge motorists to follow these tips from the American Automobile Association (AAA) to help prevent a crash or to reduce the damage from a collision:

  • Pay attention to road signs while driving. Yellow, diamond-shaped signs with an image of a deer indicate areas with high levels of deer activity.
  • Drivers should continuously scan the road in front of the vehicle looking for signs of animals and movement. Many crashes are caused by a driver striking an
  • Use high beams when there is no oncoming traffic. Generally, the light reflecting off their eyes will reveal their location.
  • Slow down and watch for other deer to appear. Deer rarely travel alone; if one is seen, there are likely more.
  • Resist the urge to swerve: Instead, stay in the lane with both hands firmly on the wheel. Swerving away from animals can confuse them so they don’t know which way to run. It can also put the vehicle in the path of oncoming vehicles or cause a driver to crash into something else.
  • If the crash is imminent, drivers should remove their foot from the brake. During hard braking, the front end of a 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 seat belt. The chances of being injured when hitting an animal are much higher if the driver is not wearing a seatbelt.

According to officials, two types of crashes must be reported to police: crashes that result in a vehicle being damaged to the point it cannot be driven from the scene and collisions that result in injury or death. Minor collisions or fender benders that do not result in injury may be reported to police, but it is not legally required.


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