Research conducted by State Farm Insurance indicates that the autumn months are when motorists are most at risk of crashes involving deer. Deer-vehicle accidents reach their peak in October, per a recent article by New York Upstate, though the risk persists until the end of January. As the article notes, the risk is so high in those months because they constitute both the mating season for deer, as well as a period of heightened activity as deer forage in advance of the winter months.
A 2018 analysis by State Farm estimates that the risk of hitting deer or other large mammals “doubles in the fall.” The risk of hitting deer is highest at the dawn and dusk hours, raising the need for drivers to be vigilant. State Farm advises drivers take a number of precautions, including: driving slowly, especially at dawn and dusk; wearing seatbelts; anticipating additional deer to follow any deer they see; using high beams, unless oncoming traffic are approaching; and avoiding distractions, such as phones or food. In the event that a driver encounters a deer, State Farm advises braking if possible, but not swerving, which “can result in a more severe crash.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that there are about 1.5 million deer-related motor vehicle accidents each year, according to Culture of Safety, resulting in 175 to 200 deaths, and as much as $1 billion in damage. Consumer Reports cites data showing that animal strike claims filed in November 2006 through 2019 cost an average of $3,865. Experts advise that drivers who encounter deer in the road resist the instinct to swerve, and instead “slow down as much as possible and let your vehicle strike the deer,” per Culture of Safety. Consumer Reports adds that drivers should not use deer whistles—devices that are intended to scare away animals—because their use is not supported by any scientific research.
According to State Farm, drivers have a “1 in 167 likelihood of having a claim involving a collision with deer, elk or moose” in the United States. The insurance company ranks New York drivers as having a “medium risk” of deer-related collisions; the top ten riskiest states include West Virginia and Pennsylvania. A 2018 report by New York Upstate listed the ten New York towns where drivers are most likely to strike a deer, in descending order: Rochester, Middletown, Ithaca, Syracuse, Watertown, Newburgh, Warwick, Canandaigua, Monroe, and Buffalo.