Risk of deer collisions almost on par with alcohol

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Believe it or not, deer pose nearly as much risk to motorists as drunk drivers. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Deer, the herbivorous hoofed animal common to North America, are certainly magnificent, but are also the most dangerous animal on the continent. The reason why is that they cause a lot of car crashes, almost as many as drunk drivers.

Deadliest animal in America

Believe it or not, the most dangerous animal on the North American continent is not a predator, like polar bears or grizzlies, but rather the humble deer.

Deer have a habit of causing traffic accidents when crossing roads, which results in more human fatalities than those caused by all other dangerous wildlife combined. According to USA Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates around 200 deaths per year in deer-related crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found 1,017 deaths occurred in animal-related collisions between 2005 and 2009.

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Bears, by contrast, caused 28 deaths in the past decade in the U.S. Sharks were responsible for 10.

Nearly as many crashes as drunk drivers

Alcohol-impaired and distracted driving-related fatalities may get more press, but deer are right behind them as a factor in a car accident, fatal or otherwise. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found 1.093 million alcohol-impaired crashes reported by police in 2000, but estimated up to 2.163 million had actually occurred, due to some impaired accidents not being reported.

State Farm, according to ABC, estimates that between June 30, 2008 and June 30, 2010, there were 2.3 million deer-related crashes, based on the frequency of deer-related crashes in its claims. The NHTSA concordantly estimates roughly 1 million deer-related crashes per year. The typical damage per incident is $3,103 and more than $1 billion annually is lost to deer-related crashes, according to USA Today.

Granted, the 200 annual fatalities pales in comparison to the more than 10,000 annual deaths from alcohol-impaired driving, but the risk of a crash is almost as high.

Mating season the worst

The bulk of deer-related crashes occur in October, November and December, coinciding with the mating season or “rut.” There are some steps drivers can take to avoid crashing into a deer, according to Jalopnik, by knowing a bit about them.

Be cautious upon seeing a deer close to the road. Deer are herd animals; where one is, others are not far behind. They are also mostly nocturnal, so be especially aware during nighttime. Roads near sources of water, such as streams, ponds, rivers or lakes, or near forests or other areas with heavy foliage such as dense shrubbery, tall grass, are areas deer are likely to be located in.

According to ABC, using high-beam headlamps where possible can help to alert them to a car’s presence. Deer whistles, aftermarket accessories mounted to the car’s body, don’t often work.

If a collision with a deer is unavoidable, according to HowStuffWorks, it is best to take a firm hold of the wheel and brake firmly. Don’t speed into the collision and do not attempt to swerve. Immediately report the incident to authorities. Don’t try to move the deer off the road, as it can be dangerous if still alive. In some areas, a permit can be granted by law enforcement officials to keep the carcass, for the enterprising venison lover.


USA Today


National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Jalopnik: http://jalopnik.com/5598727/how-to-avoid-hitting-a-deer-with-your-car

HowStuffWorks: http://auto.howstuffworks.com/car-driving-safety/accidents-hazardous-conditions/hit-a-deer.htm

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