The phrase “head-to-antler combat” may sound funny, but hitting a deer is anything but amusing. A vehicle-to-deer collision not only results in a dead or injured animal, but can cause serious injuries to humans and potentially total the vehicle. Fortunately, deer collisions in Ohio are declining, but they do still occur. Drivers must be aware of deer, especially at night. Today, we’ll examine a few key ways to avoid deer collisions.


Watch Your Signs


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that deer collisions cause about 200 fatalities each year. In 2014, the Ohio counties most likely to have deer crashes were Stark, Richland, Lorain, Hamilton, and Clermont. One of the first things drivers must do to avoid these crashes is to slow down. If you see a deer-crossing sign, slow to the posted speed limit or below. Be particularly cautious if driving between sunset and midnight even if you’re traveling on roads without deer crossing signs.


Light It Up


The phrase “deer in the headlights” has plenty of credence in Ohio and other states where deer are common. Turn your headlights on high after dark to increase your visibility and improve your reaction time. This will not prevent all crashes, but it’s better to turn on beams and not need them than risk driving without them.


Follow the Pack


Deer don’t necessarily travel in packs, but one deer on the roadway usually means more will follow soon. If you see one, slow down or better yet, pull over. Your reaction time may not be as good for the second or third deer, so stop and allow them to cross before placing yourself and passengers in danger.


Take the Freeways


A twilight drive through the country sounds fun and romantic, and it usually is unless there are deer on the roadway. In that case, a fun night could turn into a tragedy or at least a messy inconvenience quickly. Take main roads and interstates, especially if you’ll be driving at night. Listen to traffic forecasts for reports of deer on your normal routes and plan accordingly. If traffic will be heavy on main roads, take the detours forecasters advise rather than lesser-known back roads or shortcuts.


What Can I Do If I Hit a Deer?


If you know you will hit a deer, do not panic. Maintain full control of your vehicle. Do not swerve to miss the deer or switch lanes. Brake firmly and try to come to as slow and complete a stop as possible. Post-collision, do not approach the deer. Do not leave your car unless absolutely necessary. Dial 911 and report the accident immediately, then wait for help. If your car must be towed, the police and other attending responders can help you get home.


Will Insurance Cover the Collision?


Wildlife collisions are normally covered as “other than collision” accidents in most insurance companies. They may also be covered under “comp,” which refers to acts of God – fire, flood, natural disaster, and so forth. If you’re unsure how much coverage you have or if you need it, talk to an insurance agent before the peak season for deer collisions, which usually runs from October through January.