The mother and daughter, along with the family dog, Izzy, were less than 2 miles from their home near
"It took out the entire passenger's side of the front of my van," said Nussbaum, 48, a high school art teacher. "... When it first happened, I immediately wanted to make sure my daughter was OK. I just remember I looked back at her to make sure she was OK. It scared me."
Everyone was safe, just startled. But the van was totaled, and the deer, a young buck, was dead on the side of the road.
Nussbaum's crash happened in
There were 18,256 deer-related accidents statewide last year, with 3,771 of those coming in November, according to the
"This is the time you need to be looking for (deer) and pay a little extra attention,"
For the third year in a row,
Statewide, there were three fatal deer accidents last year, and 816 involving other injuries.
Tips for avoiding deer crashes
Drivers should be especially vigilant around dawn and dusk, when deer are most active. That becomes especially important around the end of daylight savings time, which took place last weekend and causes the busiest travel times to coincide with peak deer movement.
"That really compounds matters, especially during November and December," when deer are most active and least cautious because they are breeding, said
Last year, the peak time of the day for deer crashes in
If you do see a deer ahead of you on the road, you should slow down, but don't swerve.
Swerving to try to avoid a deer is often more dangerous to drivers and damaging to vehicles than actually hitting the animal, Cvetan said. A 37-year-old
"While it may be a driver's first instinct to swerve to avoid colliding with a deer, swerving can result in a vehicle moving into oncoming traffic, crashing into a tree or rolling over,"
Motorists also should be particularly cautious when they can't see off the sides of roadways, such as areas where woods or other vegetation extend to the side of the road.
Deer also often travel in groups, so "where there's one, there could be more," Tonkovich said.
What to do if you hit a deer
If you do hit a deer, you should move your vehicle to a safe place, if possible, before contacting law enforcement and your insurance company.
When Nussbaum collided with the deer, she turned on her hazards and pulled over. But as dusk crept in, she didn't want to risk another accident by sitting just over the top of a hill while she waited for help.
"My daughter was crying, my dog was restless. So I just decided to get to a safe place," she said.
Nussbaum managed to get the damaged vehicle back to her house.
"I didn't know what to do, so I called the sheriff's department," she said.
For drivers who remain on the scene of a deer crash, experts advise you turn on your hazards -- whether it's light or dark outside -- and move your vehicle off the roadway while you wait for help. Drivers also should document the damage by taking photos of their vehicle after a deer crash.
If the deer is still alive after a car crash, you should avoid interacting with it. A frightened or wounded animal can hurt you or further injure itself,
There's a biological basis for the spike in deer crashes each November, said Tonkovich, who has a doctorate in fisheries and wildlife sciences and 25 years of experience overseeing
"Deer are breeding. They've already begun breeding, and they will go well into January and maybe even into February," he said. "So that's causing deer to move."
Bucks, which "have really thrown caution to the wind" during mating season, known as the rut, are searching for receptive does, a search that often takes them across roadways, Tonkovich said.
"You've got, in some cases, nothing short of chaos in those first few weeks of November," he said.
And though Nussbaum hasn't hit another deer since her 2016 crash, she still notices the uptick in deer activity each fall.
"You see them constantly" in southwestern
Deer also tend to move more during hunting season, when there are "lots of people in the woods, moving deer around," Tonkovich added.
Archery season for deer in
What happens to the deer?
When a deer is killed in a car crash, there are, in general, two options to dispose of the animal, Cvetan said.
If the carcass is left on the side of the road, the agency responsible for the roadway -- it could be the
Or, Cvetan said, the law enforcement officer responding to the crash can release the deer carcass to someone else.
"Sometimes the vehicle owner wants it, sometimes it's someone driving by," Cvetan said.
And, he added, some Highway Patrol posts throughout the state keep a list of people who want to be called if a deer is struck and killed so they can collect it.
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