Oh, deer! Drivers beware, it’s deer season

October 12, 2015

OCT 12, 2015 | BY PATRICIA L. HARMAN, PROPERTYCASUALTY360.COM

While the leaves are changing across much of the country, it’s also that time of year when drivers are more likely to encounter deer – especially during their morning and evening commutes.

As those bucks are rushing after their does, they rarely check to see if there is oncoming traffic. According to State Farm, an estimated 1.25 million auto-deer collision claims occurred between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015. The cost of the average claim from these accidents ran $4,135. Your odds of hitting a deer, elk or moose? 1 in 169.

Drivers who carry comprehensive insurance for their vehicles are more likely to have coverage for a close encounter with deer or other wildlife. Comprehensive usually includes coverage for theft, fire, vandalism or other malicious acts, and damage from hail, wind, flood, falling or flying objects.

Collisions involving deer peak from October through December, since that is their mating season. With more deer losing their natural habitats to development, the number of accidents will only increase as they enter more populated areas looking for food.

“Although deer-auto collisions can happen anytime of the year, we generally see a spike in the number of claims during the fall,” said Robert Passmore, assistant vice president of personal lines policy for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).  “One moment the road is clear and the next instant you encounter a deer. At best, you avoid a collision and are merely shaken up, but when you collide, the accident can be extremely serious causing injuries and sometimes death.”

State Farm says the top five states involving deer collisions are: West Virginia, Montana, Iowa, Pennsylvania and South Dakota. Hawaii is the state where drivers are least likely to encounter a deer.

Experts offer several tips to help avoid deer collisions:

    1. Use your high beams when there is no oncoming traffic. This allows you to see more of the road and animals that may be on either side.
    2. Wear your seatbelt and make sure children are buckled or in appropriate safety seats.
    3. Be particularly alert at dusk and dawn, since this is when deer tend to be more active.
    4. Avoid distracted driving. Taking your eyes off the road to check a text message means you can drive several hundred feet without seeing the road.
    5. If a deer is near the road or in it, break firmly and slow down. They usually travel in herds, so the chances are there will be more than one around.
    6. When a deer is in the middle of the road, blow your horn in one long blast to scare it away.
    7. Do not swerve around the animal. Most serious accidents are caused by drivers turning into other lanes of traffic or hitting a pole, tree or another car.
    8. Watch for road signs that identify areas more populated with deer.
    9. Deer whistles, reflectors and other deterrents have not been proven effective in alerting or scaring off deer.
    10. Make arrangements for roadside assistance ahead of time and check with your agent to see what kind of coverage you have in the event of an accident.

After the accident

If you’re unlucky enough to have a close encounter with a deer or other wildlife, insurers recommend that you:

  1. Move your vehicle to the side of the road if it’s drivable and turn on your hazard lights. If you can’t drive it, turn on the hazard lights and move to a safe place.
  2. Call the police. While a police report isn’t always necessary for a claim, if other vehicles or property damage is involved, a report can be helpful. Also, the police can help in having the animal removed from the roadway if necessary.
  3. Take photos of the incident, the animal involved, the roadway, the area where the accident occurred, damage to the car, and injuries anyone sustained.
  4. Talk to any witnesses and get their contact information for your insurance company to follow up with later.
  5. Stay away from the injured animal; deer have strong legs and sharp hooves that could cause injuries.
  6. Contact your insurance agent to file the claim as soon as it is safe to do so.