Fact or Fiction? Debunking Deer Collisions
Originally posted in the ErieSense Blog by Justin Metz on September 13, 2023
Watching deer in their natural habitat can be an enjoyable, peaceful experience. But encountering one on a roadway? That’s a different story.
If it’s happened to you… you’re not alone. More than 1.5 million drivers are involved in deer collisions each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, causing nearly $1 billion in vehicle damage. (Learn how auto insurance can help you if you hit a deer.)
We’ve already shared tips on how to avoid hitting a deer if one jumps in front of your car. But what about those common bits of folklore that everyone seems to have heard about deer collisions? Is there any truth to those?
6 Common Myths About Deer
Myth: Deer are more active at sunrise and sunset.
Status: True. While deer can—and do—cross the road at all hours of the day, dusk and dawn are their peak hours of activity. Deer are “crepuscular” animals. That’s a fancy way of saying they move the most during twilight. So if you’re driving as the sun is rising or coming home from work at dusk… be especially careful.
Myth: You’re more likely to hit a deer in the fall.
Status: True. Nearly half of all deer/vehicle collisions happen between October and December. Not coincidentally, deer mating season and peak hunting days also fall between these months. As deer are running from hunters or looking for a mate… odds are they’ll cross a road somewhere in between. They're just one of four fall driving hazards we address in another blog story.
Myth: Deer whistles can prevent collisions.
Status: False. Deer whistles attach to your vehicle and are said to emit a frequency that alerts deer of your presence and send them running away. Despite anecdotal evidence – we all probably know someone who swears by their deer whistle! – no credible study has proven them to be effective. One research study at the University of Georgia found that no matter how loud or high-pitched the whistle, the sound isn’t enough to alter the deer’s behavior. Tried-and-tested technology like crash avoidance features might give you more (or… less?) bang for your buck.
Myth: Hitting a deer isn’t that dangerous.
Status: False. Nobody wants to face the repair costs of a deer collision. But in many instances, these crashes cause more than just inconvenience. In 2016, the IIHS recorded 189 deaths from collisions with animals. It’s important to note that the most serious injuries occur when a vehicle leaves the roadway—so know when to swerve, and when to stay in your lane. Related: When is a car considered totaled… and what happens when it is?
Myth: More deer are present at “deer crossing” signs.
Status: True. If you encounter a deer crossing sign, it’s there for a reason. Signs are installed in areas with high deer populations and a history of deer collisions. Additional factors that can lead to crashes, such as road conditions and visibility, also inform where deer crossing signs are placed. (And before anyone asks: The signs, of course, are for people to read… not the deer.)
Myth: If I hit a deer, I can take home the meat.
Status: It depends. If you have a taste for venison, you may be tempted to make the best of an unfortunate situation by taking the unlucky animal home with you. But first, check with the authorities – it’s usually the body that regulates hunting in your state, such as the Game Commission or the Fish and Wildlife Division. (Here’s a helpful list, organized by state.) In some states you’re free to take the animal, but not before filing a police report or applying for a special permit or tag. In other states, it’s downright illegal.
Does My Auto Insurance Cover Hitting a Deer?
Deer-vehicle collisions are covered under the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance, which is an optional coverage you can choose to add on. (Learn more about understanding your auto policy.) An insurance professional like a local Erie Insurance agent can help you customize an auto insurance package that fits your needs and budget.