What to Do if You Hit a Deer with Your Car
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What to Do if You Hit a Deer with Your Car

Deer are a major road hazard in most of America, and few places are worse for deer-related accidents than right here. Wisconsin is ranked 6th in the nation with an average of 20,000 deer-related accidents each year, and Waukesha County has the 2nd highest rate of accidents in the state. How can you avoid a collision with a deer, and what should you do if you hit a deer with your car?

When am I Most Likely to Have a Deer-Related Accident?

Peak deer activity is during their mating season, which runs through September and October. Deer are nocturnal, and they’re most active before and during sunrise, making night and early morning drives the most dangerous.

Any deer crossing signs you see on the side of the road are a warning for drivers that there’s a higher chance of deer traffic in those areas.

How Do I Improve My Odds of Surviving a Collision?

A deer “caught in the headlights” is acting as if your car is a predator. By staying still, the deer thinks it’s harder to see, but when it’s sure that an attack is imminent, it will leap in a random direction in an attempt to escape. When you see a deer, don’t swerve. You may still end up hitting a leaping deer, and hitting the deer is far safer than hitting oncoming traffic. Deer also travel in groups, so while you may miss the first one you see, there’s a chance you’ll hit another one following behind.

There’s an urban myth that speeding up will lift the front of the vehicle, helping deflect the deer away from the windshield. This is the worst thing you can do. Kinetic energy increases with speed, so that impact will be a lot harder if you’re going faster. The best strategy is to use full braking force. Even if you can’t stop in time, shaving off some speed can make a big difference in the amount of damage and injuries.

What Should I Do After I Hit a Deer?

Move to a safe place. If you can still drive your vehicle, pull off to the side of the road. Turn on your hazard lights. If you’re out of the path of traffic, stay in your car. If you can’t move your car out of the way, get to the side of the road.

If the deer is still alive, stay away from it. An injured animal can be unpredictable, and a kick from its hooves can do some serious damage.

Call 911. They need to know if the animal is in the road and may be a danger to other motorists. Even if the damage was minor and no one was injured, getting a police report will make it easier to file an insurance claim.

Inspect your vehicle. Even if the damage looks superficial, important components including the radiator, oil lines, and suspension may have taken some damage, making your vehicle unsafe to drive. Pay special attention to any fluids under the car that may indicate a leak.

What Happens to the Deer?

In Wisconsin, a deer killed by a vehicle collision is handled by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), just like it would if it was killed by a hunter. The animal can be claimed by anyone with a DNR customer ID. This ID is issued when you get a hunting or fishing license in this state, you register a boat, ATV, UTV, snowmobile or off-highway motorcycle, or you enrolled in a DNR-related safety course. If you don’t have an ID already, you can get one by creating a customer account on their website or calling their law enforcement non-emergency number. The officer reporting to the accident should have deer tags and paperwork on hand to register the deer, or you can contact DNR directly.

To prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD), deer must be taken to a meat processor or taxidermist within 72 hours of reporting to the DNR if CWD was reported in that county. CWD has been spotted almost everywhere in the state, including every county in Lake Country.

Where Can I Get the Damage Repaired?

When you’re looking for collision repair in Lake Country, go to Merton Auto Body. Our auto body estimating center can work with your insurance company to get work approved quickly, and our “keys to keys” cycle is under three days, so you’ll get your car back quickly. Our Sussex location has been helping customers in Pewaukee, Hartland, Lisbon, and North Lake with their cars for over 70 years.

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