What to Do If You Hit a Deer

The white-tailed deer is a typical sight in Ohio through much of the year. But when you’re driving, you may wish it wasn’t so common. According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, the number of insurance claims due to animal-vehicle collisions peaks each November.

To keep yourself safe on the road and when the unexpected happens, AAA Ohio offers tips on how to avoid hitting deer and what to do when you do.

How to Avoid Hitting a Deer

Avoid hitting a deer with car by being alert

Fortunately, you can take steps to keep yourself deer-free on the roads. Remaining diligent is a significant game-changer. Spotting a deer before it’s too late is the best way to avoid an auto-deer collision. Here are some tips from a current AAA Ohio Auto Club press release to keep you safe on the road:

  • Scan the road – Look ahead while driving! This may seem like an obvious one, but too often, we get caught up in our driving distractions. We may lose focus on what’s ahead. If you can spot a deer (or any other animal) ahead of time, it will give you time to react appropriately.
  • Use high beam headlights – This will aid in spotting a deer ahead of time. High beams help spot animals’ reflective eyes and increase your overall field of vision.
  • Be cautious at dawn and dusk – Dusk and dawn are peak times for deer-related auto-accidents. Knowing when deer are most active can help prevent you from hitting a deer with a car.
  • Always wear your seatbelt – According to the Insurance Information Institute, the chances of getting injured when hitting an animal are much higher if you don’t have on your seatbelt.

Gary Comer, the wildlife management supervisor for central Ohio’s Division of Natural Resources, also advises people to be aware of their surroundings.

“Pay attention to deer crossing signs – they pop up because people have hit deer there,” said Comer. “And rural areas aren’t the only places you need to be aware. Large urban areas can also be home to deer.”

You also want to pay attention to the time of year. Deer tend to be moving and more active during fall time. We urge that you be cautious all year round, but knowing the trends of animals that can do some major damage to you or your vehicle can help you prevent a major accident.

What If I Can’t Avoid Hitting a Deer?

Unfortunately, there are instances in which you may not be able to avoid the deer. This may be due to inclement weather, lack of time to adjust your driving or the deer just appears out of nowhere. When a collision is imminent, you should know the proper way to hit a deer to keep yourself safe.

“Being from the country, you have to be on high alert when you’re driving,” said Chelsea Creque, Franklin County, Ohio resident. “There have been a lot of times I’ve had to slam on the brakes, and I’ve had some family members who totaled their cars by hitting deer.”

  • Don’t swerve. By far, one of the biggest mistakes you can make right before you hit a deer is swerving. Swerving can seem correct in the moment, but this can cause you to hit another vehicle or someone’s property. This situation now changes your collision’s entire nature and can also seriously injure you or another driver.
  • Don’t speed up. Contrary to popular belief, speeding up before hitting a deer will not do you any favors. It can cause more damage to you and your vehicle.
  • Apply the brakes. Hold onto your steering wheel, apply the brakes and try your best to come to a complete stop as soon as you can. Braking is the safest way to hit a deer and will cause significantly less damage than the alternative.

What to Do After Hitting a Deer

  • Move off the road. Moving off the road keeps other drivers and you safe. Turn your hazard lights on and move out of traffic. If your vehicle is inoperable, still try your best to get it in a safe spot.
  • Report if the deer is on the road. Reporting the accident can help on many fronts, but especially if the injured deer is still in the roadway.
  • Let proper authorities handle the deer. Reporting the accident can help on many fronts, but especially if the injured deer is still in the roadway.
  • Assess damage to vehicle. If you’re going to make a claim, you may want to snap a few pictures of the vehicle damage. It will help you and your insurance provider when processing the claim.
  • Don’t automatically assume your car is ok to drive! Once you’ve taken all the necessary steps after hitting a deer, you’ll want to move on with your life. But don’t assume your car is ready to drive off. It may need to be towed. AAA members can have their vehicle towed after the incident and, depending on the level of membership, not be charged a thing! Check out the different AAA membership levels and how they can benefit you.

Car damage from deer collision

Is it Illegal to Hit a Deer and Drive Off?

In short—no. Keep in mind this is only true if you only hit a deer. If you swerve and damage another vehicle or property, then yes. You’ll need to contact your insurance company, local police, etc. like you would with any other accident. If this isn’t the case, it’s totally up to the driver’s discretion, but most states ask you to notify authorities if the deer is badly injured. It can be a potential hazard to anyone near it and needs to be handled as soon as possible.

If this isn’t the case, it’s totally up to the driver’s discretion, but most states ask you to notify authorities if the deer is badly injured. It can be a potential hazard to anyone near it and needs to be handled as soon as possible.

Another factor that will warrant a call to local authorities will be if someone in the vehicle is injured. If so, call 911 as soon as possible.

Do I Need to Report Hitting a Deer?

Aside from the exceptions mentioned above, you are not legally obligated to report to the police or call your insurance company. This is a “your prerogative” type situation, but here are some reasons you may want to consider reporting the auto-deer collision.

  • Police will help walk you through the situation step-by-step. While blogs like these can help prepare you for a less-than-ideal situation, the police will be able to help guide you through the process and ensure you’re taking proper safety measures.
  • Calling the police will help with your insurance claim if you file one. An official police report can help aid you when speaking with your insurance company.
  • Consider your insurance claim. Unless the damage is minimal or you plan to pay out of pocket, you’re going to want to notify your insurance company immediately. The sooner you inform them, the sooner your insurance company can process your claim.

Still not convinced? “In 2018, the average insurance claim for a deer-vehicle collision in Ohio was nearly $4,000. Vehicle sensors found on newer vehicles continue to increase repair costs. In fact, AAA found these new safety systems can double repair bills for minor collisions.” (More at Newsroom.AAA.com)

Hitting a Deer and Your Insurance

If you want to be proactive about precautions to take in case you hit a deer, start with your insurance. You need to know the difference between comprehensive and collision coverage.

  • Comprehensive insurance – Comprehensive covers an array of situations, but most importantly it can cover animal collisions. Remember, this coverage applies if you only hit the animal.
  • Collision insurance – Collision covers the cost of damages as a result of an accident. Such situations like hit-and-runs, an accident caused by other motorists or you swerving to avoid an animal and hitting another vehicle or property will be covered under this type of insurance.

Many people wonder, “Does liability insurance cover hitting a deer?” Be sure to contact your insurance provider as soon as possible to see what your specific coverage plan includes. To check up on your policy, call a AAA insurance agent at (888) 222-6446, or visit AAA.com/Insurance

Need auto protection? Learn about the auto insurance discounts available to AAA members.

10 Replies to “What to Do If You Hit a Deer”

  1. What about calling wild life authorities to put the deer down and drive off leaving it in pain?
    These animals are a gift. Inconvenient at time, but an animal who is.feeli g sever pain?

    1. Hi Patricia,

      This is a great point. We never want animals who are hit to suffer any more than they have to! If you call police to report that you have hit a deer, they will contact the correct authorities to ensure the animal is safely and humanely taken care of. If you notice a deer or other animal that has been hit and appears to still be alive, you may also contact any licensed wildlife rehabilitation center.

  2. What about calling wild life authorities to put the deer down and drive off leaving it in pain?
    These animals are a gift. Inconvenient at time, but an animal who is.feeli g sever pain?

  3. I once had a deer in my headlights, driving down a country road in the Texas Hill Country. Luckily I remembered advice given to me by a local friend. “See the deer? Turn off your headlights, flash them back on immediately. The deer will run off the road.” The deer was staring at the headlights, I turned them off, then back on and the deer was gone!
    Don’t know if there is science to support this, and we were traveling at under 50mph.
    I do know that I felt very lucky. For myself and the deer!

    1. Hi Diane,

      Thanks for sharing this advice. It is true that in some instances you may be able to flash your lights or honk your horn to scare off a deer. This practice is best after you have stopped or braked as much as possible when approaching the deer. We are glad you were able to stay safe in this instance!

  4. Swerving can be quite dangerous, but so can straight collisions with a deer. A lady in a church I pastored was killed in a collision with a deer, when the deer flipped onto her hood, and penetrated the windshield, with an antler puncturing her skull.

    Sometimes, there’s no time to respond if a deer leaps across the road right in front of you. In this lady’s case, if the roadside to the right had been obstacle-free, perhaps a swerve to the right might have saved her life. On the average though, I think your advice is correct.

    I personally think that some of our modern LED headlights are so dim, and aimed so low, that even on High Beam, they offer inadequate illumination to spot down-road obstacles. That results in less time to brake if case of deer intrusions on the highway.

    1. Hi there,

      We would like to express our condolences and are very sorry for your loss. Unfortunately, as you mentioned, while these tips can help, there are some instances that cannot be avoided. While the road may be clear, in most cases there is not enough time to properly check your surroundings or control your vehicle to swerve safely.
      Deteriorating or dim headlights can also be a significant factor in deer collisions and other accidents. Here is an article you may find helpful on how AAA can help you restore or replace your headlights:

      Thanks for your feedback.

  5. The bucks are coming into rut now (breeding season) So the bucks are focused on the does and the does are trying to stay ahead of the boys until the girls are are ready to breed. So Please be alert. Everyone BE SAFE!!

    1. Hi Patricia,

      Thanks for sharing this information. This is a significant reason why deer collisions peak in November! It is important to note that deer have a fairly long mating season as well, covering from October through January. Be sure to remind friends and family to stay even more alert during this time and we hope you stay safe!

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