TOPEKA – Fall is officially here, and AAA Kansas is warning drivers to be more cautious on the roads. Deer mating season is right around the corner, and October, November and December are the worst months of the year for motor vehicle collisions with animals. A collision with a deer or other animal can cause significant damage to your vehicle, if not destroy it completely, and could result in serious injuries or fatalities for drivers or passengers. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in 2015, there were 186 fatalities from collisions with animals nationwide.

“Animal-vehicle collisions start to increase in October and peak in mid-November,” said Shawn Steward, spokesman for AAA Kansas. “As the deer population grows and our cities spread into formerly rural areas, motorists need to be even more cautious and alert behind the wheel, especially at dawn and dusk, times of the highest deer activity.”

The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) reports that in 2016, there were 10,150 crashes in Kansas involving deer, resulting in 593 people being injured and 7 killed.

“Deer and other animals are unpredictable and you never know when they might dash out in front of your vehicle. But there are actions you can take to help prevent an accident or reduce the damage from an animal collision,” noted Steward. “First and foremost, always protect yourself by wearing a seat belt and removing all distractions behind the wheel.”

In the event of a collision with an animal, AAA Kansas recommends:

Following the collision, call the police/sheriff.

Avoid approaching the deer/animal. A frightened or wounded animal can hurt you or further injure itself.

Put the vehicle’s hazard lights on; whether it’s light or dark outside.

If possible, move the vehicle to a safe location, out of the roadway, and wait for help to arrive. Your safety and the safety of your passengers is most important.

“It is always best to call the Kansas Highway Patrol or local police or sheriff’s department in the event of a collision,” says AAA Kansas’ Steward. “The authorities can file a report and can make the roadway safer for other motorists by helping to remove the animal or other debris.”

Contact your insurance agent or company representative as quickly as possible to report any damage to your car. Collision with a deer or other animals is covered under the comprehensive portion of your automobile policy.

AAA Kansas offers these tips to help prevent an accident or to reduce damage from an animal collision:

Pay attention to road signs. Yellow, diamond-shaped signs with an image of a deer indicate areas with high levels of deer activity.

Keep your eyes moving back and forth. Continuously sweep your eyes across the road in front of you for signs of animals and movement. Animals may also be alongside the road, so make sure to look to the right and left, as well. While the most likely accident is you hitting an animal, on occasion they might also hit you by running into the side of your car.

Be especially attentive in early morning and evening hours. Many animals, especially deer, are most active from 5-8 a.m. and 5-8 p.m. – prime commuting times for many people.

Use high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic. You can spot animals sooner. Sometimes the light reflecting off their eyes will reveal their location.

Slow down, and watch for other deer to appear. Deer rarely travel alone, so if you see one, there are likely to be more nearby.

Slow down around curves. It’s harder to spot animals down the road when going around curves.

One long blast. A long blast on your horn may frighten animals away from your vehicle.

Use brakes if an impact is imminent. Don’t swerve. Instead, stay in your lane. Swerving away from animals can confuse them so they don’t know which way to run. It can also put you in the path of oncoming vehicles or cause you to crash into something like a lamppost or a tree.

Always wear a seatbelt. The chances of getting injured when hitting an animal are much higher if you don’t have your seatbelt on. Also never drive drunk, distracted or drowsy.

Consider purchasing comprehensive insurance, if you don’t already have it. Comprehensive insurance is the type of insurance that covers animal strikes.

AAA has posted a helpful “Fall Driving” video at aaa.com/TV. If you have questions or are concerned about gaps in your existing coverage, please contact a local insurance agent at 800-445-0659, or AAA.com/insurance.

Auto Insurance Note: Collision coverage pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with an object (e.g., a telephone pole, a guard rail, a mailbox, an animal), or as a result of flipping over. Comprehensive coverage is for damage to your car covered by disasters “other than collisions,” contacts (in this case, contact/collision with animals) and are paid for under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.

AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to 57 million members nationwide and more than 342,000 members in Kansas. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. AAA is a not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel, and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app (AAA.com/mobile) for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit www.AAA.com.