Motorists urged to watch out for deer crossing roadways


Late October through November is prime time for increasing white-tailed deer activity in Delaware, leading up to their peak mating season in mid-November. With more deer crossing roadways, along with shorter days ahead, especially after the Nov. 1 change from Daylight Saving Time back to Eastern Standard Time, motorists are urged to be on high alert to avoid collisions with these large animals.
The Delaware Office of Highway Safety reported the peak time in November 2019 with 461 crashes, more than double the 224 in October and triple the number reported in December, the other two highest months.
Deer tend to be most active in early morning and at dusk. According to OHS, deer-vehicle collisions occur most often between 6 and 7 a.m. and peak again between 5 and 7 p.m., a timeframe when many workers are heading home.
According to Delaware State Police, more than 1,800 crashes involving animals occurred on Delaware roads in 2019, 60 of which caused personal injuries and one resulted in a fatality.
AAA Mid-Atlantic notes the average claim submitted to AAA Insurance for a deer strike is more than $4,000. To avoid a large out-of-pocket expense, AAA recommends purchasing an auto policy including comprehensive coverage, which covers collisions with deer or other animals.
Based on reported insurance claims from July 1, 2019 to June 20, 2020, State Farm Insurance ranked Delaware 27th in the nation, with Delaware drivers having a one in 109 chance of animal collision.
DNREC, OHS, police agencies and auto insurance companies all agree: the best way to prevent or lessen the severity of deer collisions is attentive driving, which includes avoiding distractions that might take a driver’s eyes off the road, such as mobile phones, adjusting the radio, eating or passenger activities.
Deer usually travel in groups, so if you see one deer, there are likely to be others. Slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten deer away. Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors to deter deer, as these devices have not been proven to reduce deer-vehicle collisions.
Do not swerve to miss a deer — brake and stay in your lane. Losing control of your vehicle, crossing into another lane, hitting an oncoming vehicle, or leaving the roadway and hitting another obstacle such as a tree or pole will likely be much more serious than hitting a deer.
If you hit a deer, stop at the scene, get your car off the road if possible, turn on your vehicle hazard lights and call 911.
Do not touch the animal or get too close; an injured deer may bite or kick, causing serious injury.
For more information about deer in Delaware, visit white-tailed deer or contact the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife at 302-739-9912.