Troopers: Vehicle-deer crashes increase in October, November

This time of year, Southern Tier drivers know the sequence and the sound: a deer leaps into our peripheral vision. We spike the brakes, then hear the dull thud of a buck, doe, or fawn bouncing off of our bumpers.

The fall months bring an increased risk of vehicle-deer collisions on local highways, and New York State Police are reminding motorists by releasing statistics that show a sharp uptick in those accidents, especially in October and November.

In addition to pointing out the increased frequency of the deer-related accidents, State Police are advising drivers how to improve their chances of avoiding buck-to-bumper contact.

State Police in Troop A, which covers the eight Western New York counties of Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming, investigated 1,412 vehicle-deer collisions in September, October and November 2107. By month, there were 83 in September, 181 in October and 313 in November.

Those numbers went up slightly in 2018 during the same period, climbing to 1,523, according to Trooper James O'Callaghan, Troop A public information officer. Collisions by the month for 2018 were 103 in September, 187 in October and 270 collisions in November.

Now on to Troop E. The troop encompasses a ten-county region that includes Cayuga, Chemung, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne and Yates. Numbers were not available for 2017, but in 2018, September through November saw troopers respond to 2,161 car-deer collisions.

By month, there were 125 collisions in September, 295 in October and 368 in November.

It’s important to remember that these figures only account for car-deer collisions investigated by the State Police. They don’t take into account collisions investigated by other agencies or deer-vehicle mishaps that go unreported.

According to State Farm Insurance, New York state experiences more than 70,000 deer-vehicle collisions annually. State Farm estimates that nationally the average property cost per collision is over $4,000.

State wildlife officials believe breeding patterns during this period of the year are responsible for an the uptick in deer movement and subsequent smashes with drivers.

“Every October and November, troopers handle an increased number of vehicle collisions striking deer in Troop A — Western New York. Operators should use (heightened) caution around dusk and dawn,” O'Callaghan said.

State Police also advise, “If you are operating a vehicle and a deer enters the roadway, do not swerve. When an operator swerves to avoid a deer, the vehicle is more likely to strike another vehicle or exit the roadway striking trees or utility poles.”

O'Callaghan said motorists who have struck a deer should report the incident immediately. Troopers can’t verify that a vehicle has struck a deer if the driver leaves the scene and waits hours or days before reporting the collision.

“If you strike a deer, remain at the scene and call 911,” O’Callaghan said. “An accident report can be completed by troopers if your vehicle has over $1,000 in damage or if an involved person has been injured.”

Based on insurance claims, losses are not limited to property, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said. Although the federal highway fatality database doesn't separate the statistics by species, in 2015 (the most recent year for which data are available) 238 people were killed in the U.S. due to vehicles striking or attempting to avoid an animal, many of which were most likely deer, the DEC reported.