November the worst month for deer-related auto accidents
By Whitney Skeeters
Morgan County drivers need be wary of a wild-eyed beast lurking in the shadows on the edges of country roads while driving at night.
On October 23 around 8 p.m. 3,569 pounds of steel and metal met about 180 pounds of fur and flesh in a loud thump and a cloud of smoke. The king of the forest, a large buck fitted with a large crown of antlers, left my car in ruins, temporarily at least.
This buck caused about $4,300 worth of damage to my Ford Escape, about 50 percent of its actual worth.
According to the Quality Deer Management Association, Morgan County has a general deer population of about 30 to 45 deer per square mile, each seemingly on a suicide mission to take out as many motorized vehicles as possible.
The Morgan County Sheriff's Office reported that since August 1, there have been 31 calls to dispatch from callers needing assistance due to a deer related accident. In the past year, there have been 106 calls in total.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the average cost per insurance claim for collision damage is $2,600. If that standard holds true in Morgan County, deer could possibly cost local drivers $275,600 in the past 12 months.
Karl V. Miller is a researcher and professor of wildlife management in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and co-hosts Quality Whitetails, a hunting program on the Outdoor Channel.
Miller said there is a significant increase in deer-vehicle accidents during this time of year due to the breeding season.
"In the beginning of November, breeding increases and that leads to increased activity levels of both bucks and does," Miller said.
Miller said that other than the time of year and the time of day, there are really no other reliable predictors of when you will likely see more deer along the highway. Many different variables play a role, but there has been no irrefutable evidence that things like the moon cycles or barometric pressure can be used to determine when deer will be more active.
Dusk and dawn are the most dangerous especially when the deer are in rut (the breading season), which is typically during November but can also span September through December.
Janice Jenkins, an insurance agent at Jim Boyd and Associates, said it is difficult to generate statistics on the typical amount of financial damage deer-vehicle accidents create because each case is unique.
"It all depends on where the deer hits and how fast you are traveling," Jenkins said. "You could see anywhere between $3,000 worth of damage to a completely totaled car."
In her years as an agent, Jenkins has seen many wrecked vehicles at the hands of a destructive white tail, sometimes in strange ways.
Recently her son hit a pregnant doe while traveling on I-20 and totaled his 1996 Mustang GT. The car flipped, all airbags deployed, and the deer's fetus was found lodged in the radiator. She also had a client whose vehicle was totaled when the deer attempted to leap over the car and landed on the roof.
According to Miller, the only real way to avoid hitting a deer is to keep the car in the garage, but those of us who have to travel at dawn or dusk should be cautious during the month of November.
"Especially now that the clocks are going back and it is getting darker earlier, drivers traveling to work in the morning and home at night need to be very careful," Miller said.