How collision avoidance systems play a part in deer crashes

Published: Nov. 15, 2018 at 6:36 PM CST
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"During the beginning of the week on Mondays and Tuesdays we're getting 2 to 3 cars in a day it seems like," said Mark Williams, owner of Williams Auto Body in Ashwaubenon.

Body repair shops in the Green Bay area say they've seen an increased number of car-deer collisions this time of year.

From the summer of 2017 to 2018, the state of Wisconsin was ranked with the fourth-highest number of car-deer collisions in the country. That's according to a new State Farm Insurance study.

With it now being breeding and hunting season, deer are constantly on the move.

It brings up the question, could newer technology in cars, like collision avoidance systems, prevent drivers from hitting a deer?

A collision avoidance system allows a car to deploy autonomous braking to prevent a crash. Simply put, it hits the brakes if you don't.

"Most cars do use radars, some use lasers, some cars are even employing cameras, too, forward looking cameras to detect what the object is in front of it," says Ben Hendricks, an automotive technology instructor at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

The system takes into consideration the speeds which you and the person in front of you are going to detect whether a crash will happen.

"It would first warn the driver, and then if the crash was still imminent at that point it could employ autonomous braking," said Hendricks.

Hendricks says cars with a collision avoidance system won't necessarily stop due to a deer darting in front of it, but if the deer were standing still and speeds are low, both the deer and the car could be spared.

"In addition to the radar, some can also use forward looking cameras to detect objects, and so I guess if a deer was standing still, it could recognize that there is a deer and you know employ that warning and or the autonomous braking," adds Hendricks.

Hendricks expects crash avoidance systems to become a required safety feature in a few years but says they can't be fully relied on to avoid deer crashes just yet.

“Because of how unpredictable a deer can be, I don't think that they're designed to avoid them, because that means the car has to be looking off to the side, too," says Hendricks.

Experts say deer crash repair costs are higher with newer cars, because camera, laser and sensor technologies are built into the bumpers, mirrors and windshields. Damage needs to be identified through a scan first, before shops can do any repair.

"The computers control just about everything on cars these days, and until we do that scan, we won't know. That there just increases the cost already, just by having to do that scan," Williams adds.

Williams says a deer crash is usually covered by comprehensive insurance. Experts say if you don't have any other choices, it's always better to hit the deer than to swerve.