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Drivers beware: Deer season is upon us and collisions are up

Consumer Reports News: October 05, 2010 08:08 AM

A deer is a beautiful animal to look at from afar, but seeing one up close and personal as they cross the line from nature to highway can be downright scary and dangerous. A new study by State Farm insurance finds that deer collision claims are up 21 percent over the last five years, even though the miles driven by motorists are only up 2 percent.

Risks are impacted by the growing deer population and animal displacement due to urban development/suburban sprawl. The months of October, November, and December are deer mating and migration season, making this an especially dangerous time for both deer and motorists.

West Virginia tops the list of states where drivers are most likely to come in contact with a deer on the road; in the next 12 months those odds are 1 in 42. Iowa (1 in 67), Michigan (1 in 70), South Dakota (1 in 76), Montana (1 in 82), Pennsylvania (1 in 85), North Dakota (1 in 91), Wisconsin (1 in 96), Arkansas (1 in 99), and Minnesota (1 in 100) round the top 10. (See how your state ranks.)

The state with the least risk of hitting a deer is in Hawaii, at just 1 in 13,011.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), collisions between deer and vehicles cause about 200 deaths a year and cost an average of about $3,100 in property damage.

Animal-vehicle collisions present a danger to motorists, property, and wildlife, but there are precautions you can take to help avoid having a deer or other animal meet up with your car.

  • Slow down. Watch for deer especially around dawn and between the hours of 6-9 p.m. when they are most active.
  • Be aware. Look out for deer-crossing signs and wooded areas where deer or other animals would likely travel. And if you travel the same route to and from work everyday, you might find deer consistently grazing in the same fields. Make a mental note of when and where you regularly see these animals.
  • Be alert. If you see an animal on the side of the road, slow down, and, when traffic permits, put on your high-beam lights for greater visibility.
  • Brake, don’t swerve. Swerving to avoid an animal can put you at risk for hitting another vehicle or losing control of your own car. It can also confuse the animal as to which way to go. Just slow down as quickly and safely as you can.
  • Assume they have friends. The term “where’s there’s one, there’s usually more” usually holds true: Deer travel in groups, so if you see one run across the road, expect others to follow.
  • Buckle up. A seat belt is your best defense for minimizing your risk in a crash. The IIHS study found that 60 percent of the people killed in animal-vehicle collisions weren’t wearing seat belts.

If you hit an animal, move your car off safely the road and call police or animal control. Do not attempt to touch an injured animal. Call your insurance company when you get home. Animal collisions are usually covered in your policy.

Liza Barth


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