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Hit a deer? Here’s what to do

January 8, 2011
By Dave Werner

We have many rural roads in Franklin County, and thus a lot of deer. And when deer are prevalent, the inevitable is bound to happen - hitting a deer with a motor vehicle. This results in a slew of unexpected things, most of them bad, but knowing what to do at least reduces the stress somewhat.

The best thing is not to hit the deer in the first place. How can that be prevented, you ask? Well, in areas where deer are prone to crossing state highways, the road is often marked by "Deer Crossing" signs. A good driver needs to pay attention to these signs and be more cautious when driving in these areas, slowing down somewhat and visually observing the sides of the road for deer. Also, night driving necessitates using high beams to be able to see deer as soon as possible.

Vehicle and Traffic Law addresses what to do when hitting horses, dogs, cats, or animals classified as cattle, but does not address hitting a deer. However, if in spite of all your precautions you do hit a deer, this is what you should know.

If no one is injured and the deer is also uninjured, or runs off, and if your vehicle is drivable and damage to it is less than $1,000, there is no requirement to report it or to remain at the scene. However, $1,000 damage is easy to reach, and you likely will want to submit an insurance claim (comprehensive insurance on your vehicle will cover the damage), and if so, you will need to file or have filed for you a Police Accident Report (MV-104). This is best accomplished through the investigating police agency. If you intend to file a claim with your insurance agency, it is vital to have a police report. Therefore, you should remain at the scene of the collision and call any police agency having jurisdiction, including:

Sheriff's Department

The officer shall investigate and, if he finds the deer (wild turkeys, moose or bear have the same requirements) has been killed or so injured as to require that it be killed and the damage has been done as alleged, he shall issue a permit to the owner of the motor vehicle entitling such owner to possess the carcass. Such permit shall authorize the owner of the motor vehicle to transfer the carcass to a designated person. If the owner of such damaged motor vehicle declines to possess the deer, moose or bear, the officer may at his discretion, issue a permit to possess the carcass to any other party requesting such possession.

If you are in the middle of no where and have no cell phone service it is permissible to leave the scene to go to a location where you can notify authorities and then return to the scene.

For this and many more articles on vehicle law and traffic safety, visit the Franklin County Traffic Safety Board's website at

Dave Werner can be reached at



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