As more deer come out in the fall, Consumer Reports explains how to avoid a crash

Those of us in southwest and central Virginia know all too well that fall not only brings colorful leaves, but also an increased risk of hitting a deer.

Now that it's fall, drivers have fewer hours of daylight, which means it's harder to see deer when they wander onto the roads. That's one reason why insurance claims for deer strikes spike in the fall.

One study estimated there were more than 1.9 million animal collision insurance claims in a recent one-year period, and another found the average claim for animal strikes was $2,730. 

To avoid hitting a deer, Consumer Reports auto expert Jennifer Stockburger offers the following advice.

"First, slow down, especially around dawn and dusk, when deer are most active. And use your high beams as often as you can to make sure you're seeing further down the road," said Stockburger. 

Deer tend to travel in groups, so if you see one run across the road, expect more.

"If a deer runs out in front of you, you do not want to swerve -- that can put you at risk for hitting another vehicle or losing control of your car," said Stockburger. 

Instead, Consumer Reports recommends you slow down as quickly and safely as you can. In most cases, you're more likely to survive a deer strike than a crash with another car

"Sadly, if you do hit a deer, pull over to a safe spot on the side of the road and call the police and animal control," said Stockburger. "Get out of the car, but don't ever approach the animal, but take pictures of the scene for your insurance company."