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Soaring deer populations and weather conditions during travel this season can be a dangerous combination for motorists.  Animals, particularly deer, are a factor in many traffic accidents.  Although most deer and other animal-related accidents don't involve human fatalities, they do contribute to numerous insurance claims and auto damage each year.

While most deer-related accidents involve only one car, if a motorist swerves away from an animal and hits another car or another's property, he will likely be liable for any damage that occurs.  Foregoing liability coverage could mean an even bigger hit to one's wallet.

Many deer-related accidents occur in rural areas where the animals are most prevalent, speed limits are higher and roads wind through heavily wooded areas.  Almost 60 percent of all auto accidents occur in rural areas.  But increasingly, these incidents are becoming an urban and suburban phenomenon.  Heavily populated, growing areas are now experiencing serious deer-related accidents as suburban development infringes upon deer and other animal habitats.

We offer the following advice for drivers:

• Be alert when passing through a deer crossing zone.  Remember-the signs were put there for a reason.

• Drive cautiously during early evening and early morning hours when deer are active.

• Even in urban and suburban areas, rush hour commuters should be particularly alert.

• If you see a deer on the road, slow down and blow your horn to scare it away.  Deer often fixate on headlights, so it may not be effective to just flash your lights.

• If unable to stop to avoid hitting a deer, do not swerve.  It is better to hit head on.  The most serious injuries to motorists occur when a driver swerves to avoid a deer but hits a fixed object or moving car.

• Ideally, to reduce damage and likelihood of injury, a motorist should break until just before the point of impact, then accelerate to lift the hood to prevent the animal from flying up onto the windshield.

• If you hit a deer, don't touch it.  If it is still alive, it may be dangerous.  Call the state or local police to report the accident.

• Immediately report any damage to your insurance agent.

Posted 6:03 PM

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