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What Your Insurance Guy Wants You to Know About Car-Deer Accidents

car deer accidentsNICK ZUPKE
HNI Personal Lines Account Executive

I had a close call recently that I think a lot of you can relate to.

I was driving just after dark on a two-lane Wisconsin highway. All of a sudden, the car ahead of me hit a deer.

With the deer still in the road and not much time to react, I swerved to avoid also hitting the animal. It was a close one! Thankfully, nobody (other than the deer) was hurt, and the car ahead of me was only lightly damaged.

Yes, the deer rut is in full force in Wisconsin, which means that they're very active and on the move. Like me, you've probably noticed a lot of deer on the side of the road.

In 2013, there were 18,338 car-deer accidents in Wisconsin, which now explains why I had a hard time seeing any during gun season! (No wisecracks about my hunting skills, please!)

While the driver ahead of me was lucky to not have serious damage to his vehicle, that’s not always the case. Hitting a big deer at the right speed and at the right spot can do serious damage to your car.

In my position at an insurance brokerage, I see car-deer accidents from a different perspective. Following are three insider insurance tips to keep in mind as you're cruising through deer country this time of year:

1.) Car-Deer Accidents are Not Collisions

Deer + car = collision, right? Well, maybe in the "dictionary" sense of the word "collision." Most people assume that you have to have collision coverage on your policy for this type of incident to be covered. Not true! Deer (and any other animal) hits are actually paid out under comprehensive coverage and are not considered at-fault accidents.

2.) Try to Hit the Deer (No, Really)

Part of the trick to keeping the "collision" a not-at-fault accident is to only hit the deer! If there are no cars next to you or coming from the other direction, it may be OK to swerve — carefully  as I did to miss the deer. If there are no cars behind you, it may be OK to hit the brakes hard to avoid hitting it.

If these maneuvers aren't on the table, believe it or not, sometimes it's best to just hit the deer. Yes, I know how cold that sounds, but hitting a deer could help you avoid striking a car head-on or getting rear-ended and making the situation even worse for even more people.

It's tough not to panic in situation like this, when your adrenaline is pumping and you just want to avoid hitting anything. At least now you know what your insurance guy has to say about hitting a deer  and if you hit a deer or another car, you guys will be talking soon, anyway!

3.) Keep Your Eyes Peeled

Use your high beams whenever possible to monitor the sides of the road. If you can see an obstacle, you can work toward avoiding it! And when you see one deer, there's almost always a straggler nearby. Slow down around blind spots to give yourself extra reaction time should you see an animal.

Please share these tips with family, friends, and co-workers who might be traveling during the upcoming holiday, and share any additional tips in comments. Car-deer accidents definitely bring down the festive spirit. Let's work together to make sure they're rare and that everyone gets to Grandma's house without incident.

And for those out going out hunting this year, be safe and good luck!

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Photo by Rachel Kramer via Flickr