Wardens Offer Tips to Avoid Serious Deer/Car Collisions

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FORT WORTH – With rutting, or deer mating season and also hunting season, deer are moving about more than usual. And as a recent fatality in this area demonstrates, there is a greater risk of damage to your car, serious injury or even death from hitting a deer. Experts offer tips to avoid doing so, or at least tips that could help avoid a more serious crash.

A 34-year-old woman from Denton County was driving on a Denton County road just east of the City of Denton recently in a semi-rural area of the metroplex when she was killed by a deer she hit. The collision caused her windshield to cave in. The deer was also killed.

Game Warden Capt. Scott Haney in Fort Worth worked on the case and has some advice to offer drivers in ANY area of Texas, which has a high white tailed deer population.

“You have to maintain your course and if you hit the deer, you hit the deer, but the affects are going to be more severe if you try to swerve or completely slam on the brakes because of the other factors that come into play when you do that (hitting other cars, weather, losing control of the vehicle). My suggestion is maintain your speed and direction. But sometimes it is just an unavoidable accident,” he said.

Though this is the first fatal deer-car collision Haney can recall in his area, deer-car accidents tally to more than 1.5 million crashes in the United States, costing an estimated $1.1 billion in vehicle damage, according to recent reports from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The average cost per insurance claim was $2,000, with costs varying depending on the type of vehicle and severity of damage, according to the Institute. During deer season, there can be dramatic movements in the deer population with a significant number of deer darting onto highways and into suburban neighborhoods. So the Institute agrees with Haney that this is the most likely time to hit a deer on the road.

“As our wildlife habitat continues to shrink, accidents with deer and other animals are likely to increase unless we are more vigilant in our driving,” said Jeanne M. Salvatore, vice president of Consumer Affairs for the Institute.

The Institute suggests the following defensive driving tips to avoid hitting a deer:

  • Be attentive from sunset to midnight and hours shortly before and after sunrise. These are the highest-risk periods.
  • Drive with caution when moving through deer-crossing zones, in areas known to have a large deer population and in areas where roads divide agricultural fields from forestland. Deer seldom run alone. If you see one deer, others may be nearby.
  • When driving at night, use high beam headlights when there is no oncoming traffic. The high-beams will better illuminate the eyes of deer on or near the roadway.
  • Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path, but stay in your lane. Many serious crashes occur when drivers swerve to avoid a deer and hit another vehicle or lose control of their cars.
  • Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors to deter deer. These devices have not been proven to reduce deer-vehicle collisions.
  • Always wear your seat belt. Deer-vehicle collisions can result in serious injuries. People tend to underestimate how much damage collisions with animals can cause.
  • If your vehicle strikes a deer, it’s best not to touch the animal. The frightened and wounded animal could hurt you or itself. If the deer is blocking the roadway and poses a danger to other motorists, you should call law enforcement. Contact your insurance agent or company representative to report any damage to your car. Collision with a deer or animals is covered under the comprehensive portion of automobile policies.

And if you have a wreck that kills a deer, the question many people want answered — can you keep the deer?

“There is a statute that says TPWD can donate animals killed accidentally by vehicles to group homes, orphanages, places like that, but typically what we do is if you want the deer, most of the time we will let you keep it. But what you need to do is contact the local sheriff's office to reach a local game warden when you hit a deer,” Haney said

Meanwhile, he continues to respond to the calls that do come in, acknowledging that many more deer are hit than are reported.

“We probably get about six or seven calls a week in my district, and we’re in a five-county area. There’s no telling how many we don’t hear of.”

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