So…we hit a deer. I hope it never happens to you because hitting a deer is absolutely not the kind of experience you ever want to have. It is potentially fatal, extremely traumatic, and definitely an experience I don’t ever want to go through again. In our area, it’s common (unfortunately) so I wanted to share our experience with you and share what to do if you hit a deer yourself.
We hit a deer about two weeks ago while heading north on the interstate to visit my parents for the evening. The deer jumped out of a valley in the median between the highways and right in front of our little car. We didn’t stand a chance because between the guardrail to our right and the valley to our left, we had nowhere to go but forward into the hulking body of a young buck. Fortunately, we were just coming over the top off a hill and weren’t going at full interstate speed. We were also both wearing our seatbelts (thanks for always forcing that mom!) and neither of us were injured. We think the deer survived as well (we hope anyway). He left a bit of hair on our front bumper but we watched him leap off into the forest as we sat there shaken up and stunned over what had happened. The car sustained nearly $7,000 in damages and was in the shop for a week getting repaired.
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I’ve done a lot of research since we hit a deer. We were lucky that instinct kept us from making some huge mistakes after our accident. Still, I wanted to take time today to share our experience and help you understand what to do if you hit a deer.
We hope to never go through this experience again so in order to prevent the likelihood of this happening in the future we purchased a Save-a-Deer whistle from Amazon. It is a tiny little thing that mounts on the front of your car and is said to be highly effective in preventing these kinds of accidents. It’s too soon to tell if it works or not but the officer that responded to our scene said the police force here uses this whistle and has dramatically reduced the number of police cruiser vs deer accidents. For a couple of bucks (pun intended), it’s worth the investment to us.
I bought two whistles for my parents as well. My dad told me that my great-uncle once hit 3 deer in a year then bought a whistle and didn’t hit another one for 15 years. That’s the kind of record I want on these mountain roads! I mean, I don’t want to hit 3 in a year but I do want to go at least 15 years without another accident.
What should you do if you hit a deer? I recommend:
Deer collisions have been reported in all 50 states but they are most common in West Virginia (obviously), Montana, Pennsylvania, Iowa, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Wyoming, and Mississippi.
Move your vehicle to safe place
If you’re able to move your car, pull off to the shoulder of the road and turn on your hazard lights. You are most likely to hit a deer at dawn or dusk when they are the most active and your lights help other motorists notice your vehicle. If your state offers courtesy patrol, call and ask for someone to arrive on scene with flashing lights to help secure the scene until police arrive.
Do not attempt to drive your vehicle.
We thought the damage to our car looked fairly minimal considering the size of the deer but our radiator was busted which would have caused a much bigger problem if we had attempted to drive it. Assume the worst, move the vehicle to safe space, and wait until you are able to thoroughly inspect the vehicle and check for leaking fluids.
Contact the police
Whether the deer is in the road blocking traffic or not, call the police. You should inform the police department if the deer is blocking traffic, creating a threat for other drivers, if car parts are still in the road, and if there are any injuries. I also recommend requesting a police report. Not every insurance company requires a police report but it’s better to have it just in case. We are currently insured with Geico and they required a report.
If you can safely document the accident, do so. Take photographs of the road, surroundings, damage, and injuries (if any) to accompany the police report when you submit it to the insurance company. Your mechanic and insurance company are likely to take their own as well but it’s good for you to have your own records. If there are disputes later on about the accident, you should have your own record and evidence.
Call your insurance company
The sooner you inform your insurance company of the accident, the quicker they begin processing your claim. We have roadside assistance through Geico so I immediately contacted them to help procure a tow truck and to begin the process on our claim. The tow truck arrived timely and a local Geico agent responded to the auto shop within 48 hours to review the damages, complete the estimate, and authorize payment for repairs. They were remarkable to work with even though we had just switched back to their agency the day before the accident.
As an extra insurance tip, if you hit a deer it’s often considered comprehensive damage rather than collision so make sure you have good comprehensive coverage!
Have you ever hit a deer or been in a car vs animal collision? Tweet me at @ashleyfromhp
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