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AAA urges drivers, especially in eastern Suffolk, to watch out for deer

The driver of this Jeep struck a deer,

The driver of this Jeep struck a deer, then a pole, in 2016 in Mount Sinai.     Credit: Chris Sabella

AAA Northeast is warning drivers, particularly in eastern Suffolk County, to be on the lookout for deer darting out from the woods during the evening hours.

A total of 566 motorists on Long Island — 555 in Suffolk and 11 in Nassau County — struck a deer in 2016, according to state Department of Motor Vehicle crash data analyzed by AAA.

The majority of those crashes occurred from October through December, the worst months statistically for deer strikes, AAA said.

During the final three months of 2016, 273 drivers struck a deer while traversing Suffolk roadways and 10 additional motorists hit one in Nassau, according to the latest state data available on animal collisions.

“Striking a deer can be extremely dangerous, with the animal possibly going through the windshield, seriously injuring or killing the driver and passengers,” said AAA spokesman Robert Sinclair.

Deer strikes have been declining on Long Island over the past three years, with 766 collisions in 2014 and 629 in 2015, the DMV data shows.

The majority of the crashes occurred in eastern Suffolk. In 2016, there were 152 deer strikes in the town of Southold, 95 in Brookhaven, 83 in Southampton, 68 in Riverhead and 65 in East Hampton, according to the data. 

In total, there were 9,720 deer strikes across the state during the final three months of 2016, or equal to one every 15 minutes, AAA found.

The data shows deer strikes were more common in upstate rural counties. Orange County led the way with 581 deer strikes, followed by Monroe County with 469 and Erie County with 398, according to the transportation watchdog.

Deer strikes were far less frequent in the five boroughs with eight in Staten Island and four in the Bronx, AAA reported.

Deer, primarily nocturnal animals, were most often struck by drivers at night, according to the data. Crashes were most common at dusk, AAA found, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. during the evening rush hours.

While the natural tendency is to swerve to avoid striking a deer, AAA said evasive maneuvers can be dangerous.

Swerving to the right, particularly on a county road, could send the vehicle into a tree or light pole, while lurching to the left could cause a crash with another vehicle, AAA said. Hitting hard on the brakes is also not recommended, AAA said, which could send the front end of the vehicle into a nose dive, allowing the animal to roll up on the hood and through the windshield. 

To avoid striking a deer, AAA suggests:

  • Scanning the shoulders of the road as deer may dash out from wooded areas;
  • Obeying the speed limit to give the driver more time to react to unexpected animal movement.
  • Gently applying the brakes to lessen the energy of the crash.

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