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Officials warn drivers of danger with deer

Officials warn drivers of danger with deer

November 3rd, 2016 by Adam Brake in Local News

Deer tend to travel in herds, so if you see one, look out for more. Keep an eye out for deer-crossing signs. Reduce your speed when you see a sign. Deer are more active during dawn and dusk, so be extra conscious during these times, and watch your speed. Make sure your headlights are working properly. Using high beams can help you spot wildlife, but be considerate of other drivers. Stay focused while driving. Do not text, talk on your phone or allow passengers to distract you. What to do after a deer accident: Stay calm. If you can, move your vehicle to a safe place, like a highway shoulder, and turn on your hazard lights. Stay away from the deer. A frightened or wounded deer can lash out and hurt you. If you can't move your car or the deer carcass is blocking traffic, alert the authorities so they can clear the roadway. Document the incident by taking photos of your vehicle damage, the roadway and any injuries sustained. Check to see if your vehicle is safe to operate. Check for leaking fluid, damaged lights and loose parts. When in doubt, call a tow truck. Missouri consumers can call the department's Insurance Consumer Hotline at 1-800-726-7390 with questions on deer accidents or go to the department's website at www.insurance.mo.gov for additional resources.
How to avoid a deer collision
Mid-Missouri drivers need to be attentive if they don't want to send a deer to meet its maker this month.
According to Stephen Kistner, conservation agent in Callaway County, the deer population has been on the rise recently.
"It's a large population," he said. "There are a lot of deer and a lot of deer-car accidents. The population has increased over the last few years to a good density point. They are definitely on an upturn."
In a release sent out earlier this week, the Missouri Department of Insurance officials warned drivers of the catastrophic results which may come from hitting a deer.
"We want to remind Missourians to be aware of their surroundings, to slow down and always wear their seat belts," said Director John Huff of the Insurance Department. "Deer strikes can cause serious damage to your vehicle, and not all types of auto insurance policies cover deer strikes. It is important to review your policy and speak with your agent."
According to Kistner, drivers need to be especially alert during peak hours. In addition, the month of November is the most active time of the year for deer.
"They're the most active from an hour before sunset to an hour after sunrise," he said. "Slow down, watch the ditches and be very observant. If they're in the road, flashing lights at them works better than honking the horn."
Deer traffic is also not just a problem for rural areas in the county, Kistner said.
"They're everywhere," he added. "It doesn't matter where you drive, this county has so much green space, they are everywhere. You can pretty much strike a deer on any road in the county."
Drivers unfortunate enough to strike a deer should take special care to protect other drivers, Kistner added.
"Turn on your hazards to make sure other drivers are aware," he said. "Hitting a deer can also damage your car to the point it can't be driven. Be sure to call emergency responders if you are unable to move your car."
The deer carcass also need not go to waste, according to Kistner.
"If you hit one with a vehicle, you are allowed to keep it," he said. "However, you have to call me within 24 hours for a permit. If it goes unreported, you are breaking the law."
Kistner said he figures many Callawegians have had their fair share of road-kill deer stew over the years.
"It's crazy the amount of people who pick up deer off the road," he said. "It's actually a very common practice. You sometimes don't hit it hard enough to taint the meat."
According to state insurance officials, there are more than 1.25 million deer collisions nationwide each year, and the average claim costs $4,000. Most accidents occur in November, which is the peak of deer mating season. In addition to being aware and implementing best safety practices, state officials urge car owners to review their auto insurance policies.
Tammy Wickham, of the Naught-Naught Agency, said insuring a car for potential deer collisions is a necessity.
"If you have a loan on your vehicle, it's mandatory," she said. "Even if your vehicle is paid for, if it's your only vehicle, you should get better coverage."
Wickham said motorists need to be sure they have comprehensive coverage, which is an optional addition to auto insurance.
"We also call comprehensive coverage physical damage coverage," she said. "In a deer claim, the driver would take their car to the body shop and pay the deductible first, and the insurance would pickup the rest."