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Safety Matters: Oh deer! Watch for animals in the roadway when driving

Itís that time of year. October-December is the peak period for deer-vehicle collisions. The high incidence of deer-vehicle collisions corresponds to the peak of the annual deer breeding cycle, when deer are more active and less cautious in their movements. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, nearly two-thirds of these collisions happen during this three-month period, with most of the accidents occurring between 6:30-7:30 a.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Deer are herd animals; they travel together. If you see one by or in the roadway, slow down and be prepared to stop, as, more than likely, there are others nearby. If startled by the sounds or lights of a vehicle, or another threat, deer will bolt from the perceived danger, so be ready for erratic behavior. At night and at times of limited visibility, when there is no other traffic, drive with your high beams on. This will illuminate the eyes of deer approaching or of those already in the roadway.

When driving at a normal speed, if you are surprised by a deer, donít swerve your vehicle to avoid striking it. Reactive, evasive moves can result in a loss of vehicle control. It is generally better to hit the deer than to run into an oncoming vehicle or a fixed object like a tree.

New York State Environmental Conservation Law allows motorists who hit and kill deer with their vehicles to keep the carcass. However, a special permit must be obtained from the investigating officer at the scene of the accident, before a carcass may be removed.

Nationally, about 1.5 million car/deer crashes, resulting in an average of 150 lives being lost and $1.1 billion of damage, are reported annually.

The Insurance Institute estimates that the average claim for a car/deer crash exceeds $2,600.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation estimates a statewide deer population of approximately 1 million.

Due to the nature of car/deer crashes, it is difficult to obtain a definitive total, but it is estimated that between 38,000 and 57,000 such crashes occur annually on New Yorkís roads, with a cost between 30 and 50 million dollars.

In some New York counties, car/deer incidents account for more than 20 percent of the reported crashes.

Please be safe.

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