Fall season is upon us and that means deer season is in full swing, and right now is the most active time of year for deer-related crashes in Tennessee. If you get into a collision with a deer while driving, it means a trip to the garage.
It's a busy time for Rick Padgett, owner of Red Bank Body Shop.
"It's been enormous," says Padgett. "It started about three weeks ago. We're probably averaging around 15 estimates per week related to deer accidents."
A notable spike, considering his shop didn't see a single case from January through September. After more than 30 years in the business, the damage a deer can do still shocks him.
"That flesh and bone and destroying the metal the way it does. It's always surprising," adds Padgett.
According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP), more than 6,400 deer-related collisions were reported across the state in 2014, up nearly four percent from 2013. Injuries to motorists occurred in 306 cases with one fatality.
From 2010 through 2014, November had the highest number of incidents compared to any other month.
Sixty deer related collisions have been reported in southeast Tennessee already this month, four of them resulting in injuries.
Sergeant Alan Bailey of the THP says the best way to avoid hitting a deer is to pay attention to the road.
"We have a lot of distracted driving, and a deer coming out is going to be a quick thing," warns Bailey.
He has the following tips on how to avoid a collision or stay safe after one happens:
If you see a deer cross the road, expect more to follow. The second or third deer could be the one you hit.
Don't swerve to avoid hitting a deer. You could confuse it, flip your vehicle, or veer into oncoming traffic--all leading to a worse situation.
If you have a collision, never approach the injured deer. It could still get up and harm you.
If you see a yellow "Deer Crossing" sign, be extra careful.
"Take your foot off the gas and cover the brake and be prepared to stop," says Bailey.
Most crashes with deer happen on rural roads. Because of mating and hunting seasons peaking right now, the deer are moving a lot.
According to Kerry Smith of State Farm Insurance, if you have the right kind of insurance policy, you're in luck.
"When you have a deer claim, comprehensive coverage under your policy typically cover that, minus your deductible," says Smith. "So, I would check with your agent."
If you have an accident with a deer, move your vehicle to the side of the road if possible. Call the police and your insurance agent, and take photos of the damage.