Editor’s Note: This is a column written by Switzerland County’s David Hewitt. The articles center on all things ‘outdoors’, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.
You’re cruising along at night down your favorite stretch of road, music playing on the radio, stars in the sky, moon glowing. A perfect evening for a drive.
And then it happens!
Out of nowhere, a deer leaps into your path and the pucker factor kicks in! You jam the brake pedal to the floor and jerk the steering wheel, but to no avail. The deer is knocked to the edge of the road and you’re left stranded with steam and anti-freeze spraying from under your car’s now mangled hood.
What do you do now?
The above is an all too often scenario in our corner of the state. We don’t have many straight roads and the same winding curves that make for a nice evening or Sunday drive also make perfect ambush spots for deer to enter the road. Couple the blind curves with cornfields, bean fields and plain, old high weeds and it can add up to an accident. Indiana has more than it’s fair share of car versus deer crashes as evidenced by our increasing insurance premiums and the State’s liberal deer seasons aimed at whacking down the herd’s numbers.
So, what do you do if you have the unfortunate experience of being in a car/deer accident?
Obviously the best thing to do is to not get in one in the first place, but that’s not always an option. But, you can take some steps to avoid being the victim of a deer in the road. Remember that whitetails are creatures of dawn and dusk. They are most active during these times of day, and incidentally, they are very difficult to see in low light conditions.
When you’re on the road in the early mornings, evenings and overnight, chalk the speed down a few clicks. If you slow down just a bit, you can decrease your odds of hitting a deer. Pay particular attention when driving at night.
We are constantly distracted by everything when we’re in the car: kids, cell phones, the radio – but it’s important to focus on the task at hand, especially on our rural roads. Scan ahead of you and keep an eye out along the edges of the road and the tell-tale shine of the deer’s eyes at night.
Use your high beam headlights as well.
Also, remember that deer will normally travel in groups, so if you see one dart across the road, slow down and be prepared for another two or three to cross.
Keep in mind that deer will become more active in the fall as the breeding season kicks into high gear. The bucks will be chasing the does and their attention will be on the girls rather than worrying about an oncoming vehicle, so pay extra attention October through November.
If you’ve seen deer around the same bend, on the same road time and time again, chances are pretty good that they are using that area regularly, so slow down in spots where you routinely see deer.
Sounds simple, but you’d be surprised.
Let’s say you’ve done all you can to avoid the collision, but sadly, your new car has just met a big buck at 50 miles per hour.
First, make sure that yourself and any passengers in the vehicle are alright and uninjured. If you need medical assistance, call 911 right away and give them the nature of the injuries, the location of the accident and all of that sort of information. If your vehicle is able to move, pull it to the side of the roadway and out of traffic and wait for law enforcement to arrive.
It’s always best to wait inside the vehicle if possible, but if not, stand clear of the roadway.
Again, sounds like common sense, but…
If the deer is still alive, leave it to the police agency to dispatch it. Whether it’s the local police or a conservation officer, they’ll make that call on how to handle to deer and to remove it from the traveled portion of the road. Once law enforcement has done their thing, contact your insurance agent. Typically if you have comprehensive coverage, it will be a covered expense. If you have a basic property damage and liability plan, you’re on your own as far as the damage to your vehicle goes.
And if you’re thinking that maybe the State will help out with the cost of getting the car repaired since they “own” the deer that caused the wreck, think again:
Deer and all wildlife in Indiana are considered a “public trust” that the State manages for the use/enjoyment of all its citizens.
Good luck, stay alert and stay safe. Slowing down and paying attention is a lot cheaper than paying an insurance deductible.
– David Hewitt