Caution urged as peak deer-vehicle collision season returns

  • Published
  • By John Lamb
  • AEDC Facility Support Services

The National Highway Safety Administration states that there are approximately 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions, or DVCs, every year in the United States resulting in $1 billion in vehicle damage.

Worse yet, DVCs cause 175-200 human deaths and 10,000 injuries annually.

State Farm lists Tennessee as a “medium-risk state” for DVCs. Their nationwide analysis of data from July 2021 through June 2022 shows Tennessee drivers had a one in 108 chance of being involved in a DVC. While the likelihood of this happening at Arnold Air Force Base has decreased over the last few decades, caution is still urged.

An analysis of 35 years of DVC data at Arnold AFB reveals that October through January is when deer collisions peak. On base, motorists should always assume they are driving through deer habitat but, based on analysis of the locations of DVCs since 2002, there appear to be areas at Arnold where DVCs are more concentrated and pose a higher risk.

Accurate data is key to analysis and reporting of DVC trends and probabilities. For this reason, it is important that motorists report when and where all DVCs occur.

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; 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 wheel 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 they can continue to track and evaluate the problem.

•  Contact your insurance agent or company representative to report any damage to your vehicle. 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.