Deer Danger risk lives of drivers

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - With a million deer roaming around the state of Tennessee there's a good chance you or someone you know will hit one on the road.
So what do you do if you're faced with a deer danger?

Deer might look cute and harmless, but not if they're challenging you on the road. Just this week, an 18- year-old died when a deer smashed through her windshield after bouncing off the car in front of her.

It seems everyone has a story.

"On the passenger side when they woke up they had a hind quarter of a deer inside with them where the car was going 25mph and ripped the deer apart on impact," says Rodney Harbach owner of Eddie's Body Shop in Harriman.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency tells Local 8 News this time of year is the most dangerous for drivers.

"We're getting into the Fall of the year, and that is when the rut season begins for the deer, and that's the breeding season," says Matt Cameron with the TWRA.

New numbers put out by the state show last year show there were 5,911 deer related crashes. That's up from 2011 (4.2%). Three people died from those accidents.

"We're probably writing 8 or 9 a week sometimes. Sometimes 10 probably a week," says Harbach about insurance claims.

For Eddie's Body Shop in Roane County these accidents keep them busy.

"They're probably 20-25% of your business this time of year compared to maybe 5% the rest of the months," says Harbach. "In most cases it's hard hit, and the damage can be from $2,000 to $7,000-$8,000 dollars."

Those high costs have insurance agents busy filing claims.

"Insurance companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every year on just vehicle damage by deer," says Ron Berry who owns his own insurance office.

But the fight is on to save lives and money.

What a lot of utility companies and counties out here in rural East Tennessee are doing is shaving back all the vegetation so that motorists have more of a chance of seeing the deer on the side of the road before it jumps out in front of them.

Insurance agents are pushing clients to sign up for comprehensive in addition to collision policies.

"If you have a fire, a theft, hail damage, hit a deer, any of those things, that's comprehensive," says Berry.

Some insurance companies and body shops suggest getting deer alerts. Whistles that mount on your car and warn deer that you're coming.

"And that noise breaks that trance that that deer is in when they see headlights a lot at night," says Harbach.

And if you do see deer, experts say hit it.

"By no means swerve into oncoming traffic to miss a deer or swerve out onto the road. Hit the thing. it's going to save a human life," says Cameron.

Because in the end, having a story to tell is better than not being able to tell it at all.

We're also told it's better to hit a deer because swerving and getting into an accident -- many times can cause your rates go up if you crash into something else.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol reminds that mating season puts deer on the move and deer tend to move at dawn and dusk.

• Whenever you see deer cross the road, expect more to follow. Many times, the second or third deer crossing becomes the one that motorists hit.

• Be attentive; drive defensively, constantly scanning the roadside, especially at daybreak and dusk.

• Do not swerve to avoid contact with deer. This could cause the vehicle to flip or veer into oncoming traffic, causing a more serious crash. Swerving also can confuse the deer as to where to run.

• When you spot a deer, slow down immediately. Proceed slowly until you pass that point.

•If you do collide with a deer, never approach the injured animal. They are powerful and can cause bodily harm to a human. Report any deer collision, even if the damage is minor.

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