CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – As the days have gotten darker earlier due to Daylight Saving Time, it is important to be on the lookout for deer while on the road.

November has the highest insurance claims frequency for collisions with animals as deers tend to mate in the fall, according to Consumer Reports. Animal strike claims usually rise dramatically in the fall, peaking in November.

Insurance claims data shows that November has more than twice the monthly average and nearly 3.5 times the average for August when these claims are least likely to be filed. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the average claim for a November animal strike over the past decade is $4,600.

“Fall brings the dangerous combination of the deer being more active when we’re driving more in the dark due to the shorter daylight hours,” says Jen Stockburger, the director of operations at Consumer Reports Auto Test Center.

About 20 percent of crash deaths are the result of the vehicle leaving the road and hitting a solid object, such as a tree or a telephone pole. Braking in a straight line is better than a sudden swerve in many cases, when staring down a potential animal strike, due to the risk of leaving your lane or losing control.

Consumer Reports provided a list of tips to follow to avoid hitting a deer when driving:

  • Slow down. Watch for deer, especially around dawn and between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., when they’re most active.
  • Be aware. Look out for deer-crossing signs and wooded areas where animals are likely to travel.
  • Be alert. If you see an animal on the side of the road, slow down. At night when traffic permits, put on your high beams for improved visibility.
  • Brake, don’t swerve. Swerving to avoid an animal can put you at risk of hitting another vehicle or losing control of your car. It can also confuse the animal as to which way to go. Instead, slow down as quickly and safely as you can. Your odds of surviving an accident are better when hitting an animal than when hitting another car.
  • Assume they have friends. Deer travel in groups, so if you see one run across the road, expect others to follow.
  • Don’t rely on deer whistles. These are aftermarket devices that some drivers put on their front bumpers to scare off animals. But animal behavior remains unpredictable, even if you use one of these.
  • Buckle up. A seat belt is your best defense for minimizing your risk in a crash. An IIHS study found that most of the people killed in animal-vehicle collisions weren’t wearing their seat belts. Motorcycle riders account for more than half the fatalities, and among that group, nearly half the riders who died were not wearing helmets. 

If you hit an animal while driving, move your vehicle off the road and call the police or animal control. Do not touch the animal. Take a photograph of the accident, and call your insurance company when you get home.

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