KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Drivers in Missouri need to be extra aware of deer as the state moves into its peak deer collision season.
AAA experts say fewer daylight hours and a spike in deer activity increase a driver's chances of colliding with a deer.
According to new data from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, in 2020, there were 3,639 crashes involving deer on Missouri roadways that killed five people and injured 348 people.
Just a few days into peak deer collision season, local auto body shops are beginning to see the effects.
John Mika, owner of Venus Restoration Center on Truman Road, said he's had a handful of deer-related crashes over the last two weeks.
He said drivers always tell him the same story.
"They didn't see it until the very last second," Mika said. "They're very fast and they kind of hop and run at the same time."
AAA spokesperson Nick Chabarria said drivers should be extra vigilant during the next few months.
"The biggest thing in preventing these crashes from happening in the first place is for drivers to remain attentive and drive a speed that is appropriate for the conditions," Chabarria said.
He said the majority of deer collisions happen in the early morning and evening hours and that drivers should use high beams when there's no oncoming traffic.
AAA recommends that drivers resist the urge to swerve if they see a deer in the road. The nonprofit organization said that drivers should stay in their lane with both hands firmly on the wheel because swerving away from animals can confuse them, so they don't know which way to run.
If a crash is imminent, AAA recommends drivers take their foot off the brake. A hard brake can cause the front of the car to pull downward, which can cause the deer to come up over the hood toward the windshield.
Over the years, Mika said he's seen a range in damage from minor to totaled cars.
He hopes this year drivers will keep their eyes peeled, so they don't end up at his shop.
"Just be very careful, you just got to watch all the time," Mika said.