CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The last three months of the year are the peak time for deer-vehicle collisions in South Carolina, wildlife experts say.
That's because October, November and December are the peak months for deer mating season.
"Deer are normally wary animals and conduct most of their activities at night," AAA spokesperson Tiffany Wright says. But that can change during the rutting mating season, and you may see a buck chasing a doe in the middle of the day through heavy traffic on the highway.
A 2014 State Farm study ranked South Carolina 10th in the nation for the most deer collisions. In 2012, 175 deaths were reported as a result of motorists colliding with animals, and deer was the animal most often struck, according to the Insurance Information Institute and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
"With an increase in the likelihood of vehicle/deer collisions, it's important that drivers are practicing safe driving habits and watching out for animals on the road," State Farm Spokesman Justin Tomczak said.
"Drivers should be especially cautious just before and after sunrise and from sunset to midnight when deer tend to be moving more," says Russ Dubisky, executive director of the South Carolina Insurance News Service.
Insurance experts say car accidents involving deer or other animals are covered under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy, but those collisions will not be covered for drivers who carry a liability-only policy.
The average cost per insurance claim relating to a deer collision is about $3,000, with costs varying depending on the type of vehicle and severity of damage, according to an Insurance Information Institute study. That does not include claims involving medical payments.
Experts advise taking the following steps to avoid collisions with deer:
- Drive at a safe speed, as deer are especially active at sunrise and sunset.
- Be a defensive driver. Scan the road and the sides of the roads ahead and be prepared to take action, which includes slowing down, or braking suddenly.
- Make sure you and everyone in your vehicle is buckled in their seat belts.
- If you encounter a deer before your car, brake firmly. Do not swerve and leave your lane; many accidents are not caused by colliding with the deer but are the result of driving into another car or truck in the opposite lane while trying to avoid the animal.
- Watch for water on the road and near the sides of roads, as water attract deer
- If you see one deer, look for others: they often move in groups.
- Use high-beam lights when possible to reflect the eyes of the deer and blow your horn to frighten them away.