We're in the midst of the most dangerous deer season

Monday, October 30, 2017

Hawaiians say aloha, Italians arrivaderci or ciao, Germans say auf Wiedersehen and the French au revoir or bon voyage.

Get ready to leave the home of a friend or relative in Southwest Nebraska, and along with a plate of leftover dessert, you’re likely to receive the admonition “Watch out for deer!”

There’s good reason.

State Farm Insurance’s 2017 deer-collision study shows Nebraska drivers have a 1-in-134 chance of hitting a deer. (Technically, elk and moose are lumped into the statistics, but we would guess those types of collisions are in the single-digits.)

The Cornhusker state is actually in the middle of the pack when it comes to state rankings for deer collisions; West Virginians face a 1-in-43 chance of hitting a deer with their cars.

Alaskan animals apparently have plenty of room to roam away from roads, since drivers their have only a 1 in 407 chance of hitting a deer, while Hawaiians have only a 1 in 6,823 chance of such a collision. (Yes, they have deer in Hawaii; they even have a hunting season.)

You’re more likely to hit a deer in all other adjoining states except for Colorado, where drivers are nearly half as likely to do so than Nebraska drivers.

In Iowa, where drivers have a 1-in-69 chance of hitting a deer, the Department of Transportation felt compelled to issue a clarification on Facebook for a common question:

“Why don’t you put these signs where it is safer to cross?”

“Deer can’t read signs. Drivers can. This sign isn’t intended to tell deer where to cross; it’s for drivers to be alert that deer have been in this area in the past.”

We did notice that Iowa’s signs have deer depicted accurately with “points forward” on their antlers; unlike some other states where the antlers are apparently on backward.

State Farm says the average car-deer collision claim last year was $4,179, up from $3,995 the year before.

Most collisions, in descending order, are in November, October and December.

You can improve your chances of not hitting a deer by simply slowing down, especially at dusk and dawn, and paying special attention to the road.

Other advice:

* If you see one deer, be prepared for more.

* Pay attention to deer crossing signs, especially now that you know deer can’t read them.

* Buckle up on every trip, every time.

* Use your high beams to see farther, except when there is oncoming traffic. Watch for shadows of deer in the headlights of approaching vehicles.

* Brake if you can to keep from hitting a deer, but avoid swerving, which can result in a more severe crash.

* Don’t rely on products such as deer whistles, which are not proven effective.

* If riding a motorcycle, always wear protective gear and keep your focus on the road ahead.

If you do hit a deer:

* Move your vehicle to a safe place, preferably the side of the road and turn on your hazard lights.

* Call the police and alert authorities if the deer is blocking traffic and causing a threat to other drivers.

* File a report and document the incident, including photographs if it’s safe to do so.

* Stay away from the animal.

* Contact your insurance agent immediately.

Perhaps, one day, all deer will come with microchips to alert our self-driving cars in time to avoid a collision.

Until then, as long as we’re still in charge of driving our own cars, the local farewell remains the best advice: Watch out for deer!

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