Did you know that deer cause more than a million car accidents each year? These accidents cause serious injuries, expensive property damage, and more than 200 deaths annually. As South Carolina has a massive deer population, drivers in our state should be especially concerned about these staggering statistics. In fact, Bankrate.com reports that the odds of a South Carolina driver getting into a car accident with a deer this year is one in 95. This means that South Carolina ranks as the ninth most dangerous state in the country when it comes to deer vs. car collisions.
What can be done about this dangerous situation? Scientists out of the University of Washington and the University of Idaho may have found a solution. According to the New York Times, these scientists are arguing that releasing cougars into the wild would reduce the deer population and result in preventing 155 human deaths, 21,400 human injuries, and save $2.3 billion over the course of 30 years. The cougar proposal advocates releasing cougars into states, including South Carolina, where the big cats historically roamed and which currently have sufficient open forestland to support a healthy cougar population. The scientists acknowledge that cougars themselves also pose a risk to humans, but estimate that to total number of human lives that would be lost to cougar attacks over a 30-year period would be fewer than 30, and therefore far less than the number of lives that would be saved thanks to a reduced deer population.
Tips for Preventing Deer and Car Collisions
Regardless of whether or not the government decides to release cougars into South Carolina, deer running into the road will still pose a serious danger to drivers. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep the following tips from Culture of Safety in mind in order to help mitigate deer vs. car collisions:
- Don’t Swerve: Injuries and damage caused by deer vs. car accidents are generally much more severe when the driver swerves in an attempt to avoid hitting the deer. This is because swerving can cause head on collisions, crashing into trees, or rolling the vehicle, all of which tend to result in increased injuries and property damage. Therefore, the best thing to do when a deer runs out onto the road is to slow down as much as possible and to let your vehicle hit the deer. This may seem counterintuitive, but studies have shown that this is the safest approach.
- Take Note of Deer Crossing Signs: When you see a deer crossing sign posted on the side of the road be extra vigilant and make sure not to speed.
- Know How Deer Travel: Deer are most active at dawn and dusk. Therefore, the majority of deer related car accidents occur around sunrise and sunset, and drivers should be especially careful when driving at these times. Additionally, keep in mind that deer often travel in packs so if you see one take note that others may be nearby.
- Use Your High Beams: Driving with your high beams on is helpful for spotting deer up ahead and should be used when possible.
What to Do If You Hit a Deer?
No matter how careful you are, sometimes hitting a deer is unavoidable. According to State Farm, a driver who hits a deer should do the following six things:
- If possible, pull your car over to the side of the road. If you can still drive your car, pull over to the side of the road to a safe location and put on your hazard lights.
- Call the police. Alert the police if the deer is injured or is blocking traffic so that they can handle the situation. You should also call the police if someone is injured, or if there is property damage, so that an official report can be filed.
- Stay away from an injured deer. If the deer is injured be sure to keep a safe distance away from him as he may be frightened and charge at you.
- Document the incident. If possible, take photos of the roadway, any damage, and all injuries. Additionally, if there are any witnesses be sure to get their contact information. Carefully documenting the incident will make it easier to file an insurance claim.
- Contact your insurance agent. It is important to report damage and injuries to your insurance provider as soon as possible.
- Call a tow truck. Check your car to make sure that it is safe to drive, and if you suspect that driving would not be safe be sure to call a tow truck.
Who is at Fault in a Deer vs. Car Accident?
Generally speaking, insurance companies do not consider hitting a deer to be an at-fault accident. Therefore, in many instances hitting a deer will not cause your insurance rates to go up, and damage will be paid under the comprehensive coverage portion of your auto insurance policy. However, a driver in a deer vs. car accident may be liable for injuries or damages sustained by others (for example, passengers who were riding in the driver’s car at the time of the accident or people in another vehicle that was involved in the accident) if the driver acted negligently. For instance, a driver who was intoxicated, negligently swerved, was speeding, or could have safely avoided the impact may be found negligent and therefore held liable. Negligence is analyzed on a case by case basis. Therefore, if you have been involved in a deer vs. car accident and need to prove that someone else acted negligently it is very important that you consult with an experienced car accident attorney.
Speak to a Legal Expert
If you have been involved in a car accident in South Carolina and would like to file a car accident claim in order to recoup your losses, contact the Elrod Pope Law Firm as soon as possible. Our experienced car accident attorneys would be happy to discuss your legal options with you during a free consultation at our office in either Rock Hill or Lake Wylie.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.