If you live in Northeast Ohio, you have a 1 in 127 chance of hitting a deer during the next year.
Nationally, motorists struck more than 1.25 million deer in 2014. Considering that there are almost 212 million licensed drivers, the odds that a U.S. driver might hit a deer are 1 in 169.2
Avoid Animals, But Protect People First
Obviously, collisions are bad for the deer, but they they can also be devastating for humans. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 175 people died in animal collisions in 2012 (most recent data).3 In addition to these fatalities, there were almost 13,000 injuries.4
In Ohio, deer migration and mating season occurs from October through December, so drivers have to be especially careful during these months. In fact, the likelihood of hitting a deer more than doubles during this period, peaking in November.5 Such collisions can occur at any time, but they are most common at dawn and in the early evening.6
And remember that deer are not the only animals that can cause collisions. Depending on where you live, you may need to watch out for raccoons, turkeys, and groundhogs.
Here are some tips that might help you avoid a collision with a deer:
- Use extra caution in known deer zones. Be alert and drive slowly when traveling through marked deer-crossing zones. Deer may appear near busy roads in cities and suburbs, not just in rural areas. They can be unpredictable and may suddenly dart into traffic if startled by lights, sounds, or unexpected movements.
- Proceed with caution. Deer travel in groups, so if you see one, watch closely for others that may be nearby. Using your high-beam headlights at night may help you spot the eyes of a deer on or near the road.
- Drive defensively. If a deer appears in your path, brake firmly but try not to swerve. Staying in your lane may help you avoid hitting another car or losing control of your vehicle. If you hit a deer, stop and check your car for damage if you can do so safely. However, it’s best to stay away from an injured animal that could try to harm you because it’s frightened. Call 9-1-1 if the deer is injured, blocking the roadway, or poses a danger to other motorists. The police will call the proper authorities about the deer. You may also need to fill out a police report.
- Use common safety sense. The same precautions that apply to all driving situations might protect you in a deer collision. Sixty percent of people who did not survive crashes involving animals were not wearing seatbelts. Sixty-five percent of motorcycle riders who died were not wearing helmets.7
- Don’t swerve for small animals. Many small animals might wander onto the road, too, such as skunks, squirrels, rabbits and domestic dogs and cats. It’s natural to want to swerve to avoid any animal in the road, but remember that swerving may put yourself, your passengers, and other motorists in danger.
Review Your Comprehensive Insurance
Deer-vehicle collisions can be expensive. The average national cost per claim is $3,888, up 13.9% from 2013.8
It’s important to keep in mind that damage caused by an accident with a deer or other animal would typically not be covered by the collision portion of your automobile insurance. Rather, it would be covered under the comprehensive portion. Comprehensive insurance also covers theft and pays for damage (up to the policy limits) to your own car resulting from fire, vandalism, falling or flying objects, explosions, earthquakes, and weather-related risks such as wind, hail, and flood. Some policies may also cover windshield damage.
Lenders may require comprehensive coverage, but this coverage is optional if you own your vehicle without a loan, and some people choose to forego it in order to reduce premiums. In general, however, the premiums for comprehensive coverage are relatively low considering the variety of situations it covers. This may be a good time to review your auto policy to make sure you have appropriate coverage for your needs.
1, 5, 8) ClaimsJournal.com, September 16, 2015
2) TwinCities.com, September 16, 2015
3) Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2015
4) Insurance Information Institute, 2015
6–7) Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, 2015