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Watch out for Rudolph on the road

  • TIMES NEWS file photo
    TIMES NEWS file photo
Published November 29. 2013 05:00PM

It was just before 6 p.m., and Stacy Fritz was driving on Little Gap Road in Kunkletown when suddenly, a deer barreled in front of her car.

"It was running full speed and it was a big doe," the Palmerton woman said. "I was coming from Brodheadsville, so I took the back road because I wanted to go to 48 Hours and rent a movie. That movie cost almost $3,500."

Fortunately, Fritz wasn't hurt. But the heavy front end damage to her 2009 Kia Sportage took weeks to repair.

Fritz's experience isn't rare: This is the time of year when deer are hitting the road and cars in greater numbers than at any other time of year, according to State Farm Insurance.

The company's data shows that November, the confluence of the deer hunting and mating seasons, is the month during which drivers are most liable to hit deer. The heavy traffic generated by Thanksgiving travel increases the risk. Thanksgiving weekend is a peak travel time in the United States. AAA is projecting that 43.4 million people will be traveling at least 50 miles this coming holiday, 90 percent of them by car.

Pennsylvania falls into the top five states in which motorists were most likely to hit a deer in 2011-2012, according to the company. Drivers stood a one-in-73 chance of hitting a deer.

The state falls fifth in line behind West Virginia, where the chances are one in 38; Montana, one in 61; South Dakota, one in 65; and Iowa, one in 67.

Bringing it closer to home, according to data from the state Department of Transportation, there were 3,365 deer-related crashes last year in Pennsylvania, resulting in eight fatalities. In 2008, there were 2,809 crashes, with 11 fatalities.

The numbers increased between 2008 and 2011, when the state logged 3,403 crashes with nine fatalities, then dropped last year.

Locally, there were 36 deer-related crashes last year on Carbon County roads, with no fatalities. In 2008, there were 26, with no fatalities.

In Monroe County, there were 76 deer-related crashes last year, and 74 in 2008.

And in Schuylkill County, there were 40 such crashes last year, and 35 in 2008.

Deer cause more damage than one might think: The average property damage cost of these incidents during the final half of 2012 and the first half of 2013 was $3,414, up 3.3 percent from the year before, according to State Farm.

Nicole Pester of Owl Creek can vouch for that.

She was on Owl Creek Road, about a half-mile from home, at 9:30 p.m. Nov. 7 when she hit a buck.

"I have a '99 Chevy Cavalier. The hood radiator and front light are smashed and the engine is making a noise, so I'm probably going to junk it. I had roadside assistance with my car insurance to get my car towed to my dad's garage, but roadside assistance doesn't cover hitting a deer or getting in a wreck," she said.

Bill Freundt, an appraiser for Wentz Auto Body in Lehighton, said about 20 percent of the deer-damaged cars that come into the shop have been totaled. Most, though, range between $1,000 and $2,000 in damages.

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