Not a fan of the upcoming switch back to Standard Time? Well, here’s another reason you might be right: University of Washington researchers say you’re 16% more likely to hit a deer after the time change. Our “falling back” puts more cars on the road during darker evening hours, a prime time for deer.
That’s only part of the story, though. Deer are naturally on the move in October. It’s the No. 1 month for car-deer collisions as colder weather drives the animals to lower elevations in search of better browsing. That’s also when they’re migrating to find mates. About one-half to two-thirds of deer collisions happen between October and December.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to reduce the chances of hitting a deer. And if it does happen? Your PEMCO coverage may be able to help. (More about that below.)
How can I reduce my chances of hitting a deer?
You can breathe easier when driving through deer country when you follow seven deer-smart tips:
Beware around dawn and from dusk to midnight. That’s when deer are the most active. Accidents are also more common on newer stretches of roadway. Tender, freshly planted grass and shrubs attract hungry deer.
Cut your speed. Those extra seconds buy you precious time to react to a deer in your path.
Use high-beam headlights on rural roads. They can illuminate the eyes of a deer near the roadway. (Did you know experts say drivers use their high beams less than half as often as they should?)
Expect more deer if you see one. Deer often travel in groups of two or three. They may dart out to join another that has just crossed the road.
Don’t swerve. Unfortunately, you’re much more likely to wreck your car if you swerve to avoid a deer, rather than hit it. Slow down as quickly as possible, stay in your lane, and maintain control.
Honk steadily. If a deer seems “frozen” in your headlights, your steady honk may be enough to scare it safely back to the woods.
Buckle up or, for motorcyclists, wear a helmet. Your chances of serious injury soar if you’re not properly protected in all types of accidents.
What should I do if I hit a deer?
If all that fails and you still hit a deer, safety first! Get emergency help if you need it – call 9-1-1 if anyone is injured, your car is damaged, or the animal is lying in the road. (The police can remove it so it won’t be a hazard to other drivers.) Sadly, you’ll want to suppress your natural, good-hearted intentions to try to help a wounded animal. In its panic, it could seriously injure you.
Move your car to a safe place, photograph the damage and scene, and make sure your vehicle is safe to drive (no leaking fluid, tire damage, etc.) before leaving. If in doubt, call a tow truck.
Once you’ve arrived safely at your destination, log in to your PEMCO account or call 1-800-GO-PEMCO anytime, day or night, to report the accident. A real person answers the phone 24/7.
Does my insurance cover hitting a deer?
Yes! But exactly what’s covered will depend on the damage and the coverages you chose:
Damage to another car or injuries to its passengers: Your liability coverage (required for all drivers in Washington and Oregon) can help. If you hit another vehicle or damage someone’s property when you’re trying to miss a deer, your policy’s liability coverages would pay them for damage and injuries they suffer for which you may be legally liable.
Injuries to you or your passengers: If you’re hurt in the accident, your policy could cover your medical bills under personal injury protection (PIP), which is an optional purchase for consumers in Washington and required in Oregon. If your medical bills exceed your policy’s limits, your personal health insurance may help make up the difference.
Damage to your car: If you hit a deer or swerve to avoid it and damage your car, your insurance can pay to fix it, provided you bought optional* comprehensive and collision coverages, which are normally sold together. You’ll be responsible for the deductible you selected when you bought your insurance (that’s the amount you pay out of pocket before insurance coverage kicks in which, for most people, is usually between $500 and $2,000). Your insurance can cover the rest of the repair costs. Your collision coverage also would pay to fix your car if you damaged it by running over a deceased deer lying in the road (the same as if you hit road debris). If the damage is so bad that your car is totaled, you’ll receive the retail market value of your car (right before the crash), minus your deductible.
Don’t forget that, even if no other cars are involved, you’ll need to follow your state’s laws for reporting motor vehicle collisions.
That might mean completing a Vehicle Collision Report in Washington or Traffic Accident and Insurance Report in Oregon if anyone was injured or damages appear to exceed $1,000 in Washington or $2,500 in Oregon. You have four days in Washington and three days in Oregon to file your report.
No one wants to think about hitting anything – much less a beautiful wild animal. But as upsetting as a deer collision may be, know that you don’t have to deal with it alone. We’re here to help!
*If you’re buying your vehicle with a loan, lenders typically require you to carry comprehensive and collision insurance on the car until it’s paid off.
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