West Virginia is a top state for deer-vehicle collisions. It has come in as the number one state in State Farm’s annual deer collision claim study for 12 consecutive years. The likelihood of hitting a deer in West Virginia is one in 46 for 2018. The most dangerous months for deer activity are October through December. Colliding with a deer can cause expensive property damage and serious personal injuries.
Drivers are much more likely to run into deer if they are not paying attention to the road. Drivers may not be watching carefully enough for deer on the side of the road or may react too slowly to a deer that darts out into the roadway. If a driver always remains alert and attentive to the road, however, he or she has a better chance of spotting a deer before it runs out and reacting accordingly.
Always pay attention to the road. Texting while driving is illegal in West Virginia, and one of the most dangerous driver distractions. Do not text or talk on a handheld phone while driving. Avoid other forms of distraction, such as the radio or passengers, as well. Keeping your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel, and your mind on the driving task can help you avoid striking a deer, even if one crosses your path.
Use High Beam Headlights
Deer cross the road most often in rural areas of West Virginia. When driving in rural areas, use your high-beam headlights whenever possible to see more of the sides of the road. High-beam lights can illuminate the eyes of deer and help drivers spot them sooner. Remember, however, to turn your high beams off when there is oncoming traffic.
Drive Slower at Dawn and Dusk
Deer are most active at dawn and dusk. This is when deer leave their homes to graze. If you are driving at these times of day, be extra alert for passing deer. Drive slowly and continuously, scan the sides of the road for deer, and be ready to hit your brakes at any time at dusk and dawn. If you see one deer, assume more are nearby. Deer often travel in groups. Others often cross the road quickly to catch up with the first that crossed.
Be Ready to Brake
Part of what makes deer collisions so common is their erratic, unpredictable behavior in front of headlights. The bright lights often confuse deer – especially younger deer – and may cause them to pause in the road, run in different directions, or dart out into the roadway. Always drive the speed limit and be ready to press your brakes at the first sign of a deer. If you see brake lights ahead of you, do not try to pass until you are sure the driver is not braking for deer.
Brake Lightly and Do Not Swerve
If a deer does cross your path, how you react to the situation is critical. First, take your foot off the gas pedal and brake smoothly and lightly. Do not swerve to try to miss hitting the deer. This often results in the vehicle leaving the roadway and colliding with an object or turning too sharply and overturning. Instead, brake lightly and keep a firm hold on the steering wheel, keeping it aimed straight ahead. Drive at appropriate speeds for the area in case a deer runs in front of you.
If you hit a deer, stay calm and check yourself and others for injuries. Call 911 and request an ambulance if the accident was severe. Move the deer out of the road, if you can do it safely. Otherwise, report the location of the deer to the city highway department for removal. Then, call your insurance company to report a car accident in West Virginia.