The chances of deer-vehicle crashes are on the rise with mating season and the quest for more secure habitat sending deer on the move, according to AAA Oklahoma.

Deer are on the move now seeking new food sources and secure shelter. Typically, deer-vehicle crashes peak in mid-November during the height of the rut, or mating season, according to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, 186 vehicle crashes reported in 2017 were deer-related (crashes in which a deer and vehicle actually collided or the presence of a deer was a contributing circumstance).

“In addition to injuries and loss of life, deer collisions often cause significant vehicle damage that can lead to large expenses for the vehicle owner if not properly insured,” said Leslie Gamble, public and government affairs manager for AAA Oklahoma. “Of the animal strikes reported by AAA Insurance policy holders in 2018, the average cost per claim was more than $4,700.”

Be Insurance Prepared:

Purchase comprehensive coverage as part of an insurance policy. Vehicle damage due to collisions with animals is included in comprehensive coverage. Unfortunately, many drivers don’t, and will have to pay out-of-pocket for repairs in a deer-vehicle wreck. Collision coverage pays for damage to a car from a collision only with an object (e.g., a telephone pole, a guard rail, a mailbox), or as a result of flipping over.

Be Driving Prepared:

• Always wear a seatbelt. The chances of getting injured when hitting an animal are much higher without a seatbelt on.

• Be especially attentive in early morning and evening hours. Many animals, especially deer, are most active from 5-8 a.m. and 5-8 p.m. – prime commuting times for many people.

• Pay attention to road signs. Yellow, diamond-shaped signs with an image of a deer indicate areas with high levels of deer activity.

• Keep watching back and forth. Continuously sweep across the road for signs of animals and movement. Animals may also be alongside the road, so make sure to look to the right and left, as well.

• Use high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic. Sometimes the light reflecting off their eyes will reveal their location.

• Slow down, and watch for other deer to appear. Deer rarely travel alone, so if there's one, there are likely to be more nearby.

• One long blast. A long blast on a car horn may frighten animals away from the vehicle.

• Use brakes if an impact is imminent. Don’t swerve. Swerving away from animals can confuse them so they don’t know which way to run.

“If you are unfortunate enough to have a deer enter the highway in front of your car, it is best to hit the animal and not swerve to avoid it,” Gamble said. “More serious crashes occur when drivers swerve to miss deer and lose control of their vehicle, leaving the road or veering into oncoming traffic.”

Be Crash Prepared:

• Move your vehicle off the roadway to the shoulder, if possible, and call for law enforcement at *55. Make sure you tell the dispatcher if the animal or your vehicle is still in the road.

• Do not try to move the animal. An injured deer might panic and seriously injure you. Law enforcement or animal control officials can remove the animal from the road when they arrive.

• If possible, move the vehicle to a safe location, off the roadway, and wait for help to arrive. Turn on hazard lights.

• If in a congested area, stay inside the car with seat belts on to avoid injuries from secondary crashes. Do not stand near the vehicle — especially between the car and another one. Watch for approaching traffic.

• Take pictures to document the crash once the scene is secured from traffic.

• Contact your insurance company as soon as possible.