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Caution urged as peak deer-vehicle collision season approaches

Motorists traveling on and around Arnold Air Force Base are asked to always assume they are driving through deer habitat, but there appear to be areas at Arnold where deer-vehicle collisions are more concentrated and pose higher risk. (Graphic contributed)

Motorists traveling on and around Arnold Air Force Base are asked to always assume they are driving through deer habitat, but there appear to be areas at Arnold where deer-vehicle collisions are more concentrated and pose higher risk. (Graphic contributed)

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- Insurance statistics report that about 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions – or DVCs – occur each year in the United States resulting in approximately $1 billion in vehicle damage.

Nationwide, there are approximately 175 to 200 fatalities annually.

An analysis of 30 years of DVC data at Arnold Air Force Base reveals that October through January is when deer collisions peak.

On base, always assume you are traveling through deer habitat but, based on analysis of the locations of DVCs since 2002, there do appear to be areas of higher collision risk.

The following tips for avoiding DVCs were compiled from a number of sources such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Tennessee Department of Safety, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Highway Loss Data Institute, Deer-Vehicle Crash Information Clearinghouse, and Michigan Deer Crash Coalition, all of which offer similar advice. These tips include:

• Use extreme caution during the months of October through January.
• If you see one deer, you should expect others.
• Be attentive from sunset to midnight and hours shortly before and after sunrise. These are the highest risk periods for DVCs.
• When driving at night, reduce your speed and use high-beam headlights when possible. The high-beams will better illuminate the eyes of deer on or near the roadway.
• Slow down when you notice a deer in or near your path but stay in your lane. Many serious crashes occur when drivers swerve to avoid a deer and hit another vehicle or lose control of their cars.
• Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles to deter deer because they have been proven not to change deer behavior.
• Avoid the use of cell phones and other distractions while driving.
• Scan both the roadway and roadsides.
• Be especially careful in the rain – deer can be harder to see and they slip easily on the pavement.

If a DVC is unavoidable, the same sources offer this advice:

• Don’t swerve, brake firmly, stay in your lane, hold onto the steering, and bring your vehicle to a controlled stop.
• Pull off the roadway. Turn on the vehicle hazard flashers and be careful of other traffic when you leave your car.
• Don’t attempt to remove a deer from the roadway unless you’re convinced it’s dead. A deer can inflict serious injuries.
• Contact law enforcement to report the incident. At Arnold, be sure to report it to the AEDC Protective Services so that we can continue to track and evaluate the problem.
• Contact your insurance agent or company representative to report any damage to your car. Collision with a deer is usually covered under the comprehensive portion of your automobile policy.

Tennessee law allows deer killed in a collision to be taken and used as food as long as you contact the nearest TWRA regional office to report the accident within 48 hours.