Where You’re Most Likely To Hit A Deer While Driving
By Aaron Crowe
Hitting a deer with your car can be scary. It can be especially frightening if you’ve stopped for a deer that’s looking to cross the road.
That’s what happened to Julie Reusch, a communications manager for Allstate Insurance in Pennsylvania, who was pregnant with twins in November 2011 when she stopped on a two-lane road after she saw a curious deer on the side of the road.
A car coming toward her must not have seen the buck stop, hitting it in the 45 mph lane as it went into the oncoming lane, sending the deer into Reusch’s front bumper. No one was injured, though the deer was killed, and Reusch says she was shaken and worried that the deer would crash through the window on her Prius.
“The moment where I saw it happening was very scary,” she says.
Where the deer roam
November is prime season for deer collisions, with one more likely to happen in November than any day between Feb. 1 and Aug. 31, according to a State Farm analysis of data from the Federal Highway Administration. More than 18% of all such mishape happen in November. October is the second most likely month for such crashes, and December is third.
West Virginia is the state where most deer collisions occur, with a 1 in 40 chance during the year, according to State Farm. The other top states for deer collisions are, with the odds of hitting one:
South Dakota: 1 in 68.
Iowa: 1 in 71.9.
Michigan: 1 in 72.4.
Pennsylvania: 1 in 76.
Over the last year, the total number of deer related collisions in the Unites States has increased by 7.7% but collisions dropped 2.2% for three consecutive years before the recent rise.
The average cost of a deer-vehicle accident was $3,305 in the first half of 2012.
Type of coverage needed
If you’re involved in a deer collision, the comprehensive part of your car insurance policy — which states don’t mandate that drivers carry — will cover the damage. Comprehensive covers theft, fire, hail, vandalism and other events out of your control. A claim usually won’t raise your rates unless you have a lot of recent claims.
You’d think that hitting a deer would be covered by collision insurance coverage, which normally covers an object or another vehicle hitting your car. Hitting an animal is listed as a loss “other than collision,” so it’s comprehensive coverage covers it.
If you swerve and miss the deer and hit a tree, for example, you’d be covered under a collision claim.
If you have liability-only car insurance, which only covers the damage you do to others and not your car, then you won’t be covered for any damage from an accident with a deer.
Drew Delaney, an insurance agent in Michigan, where clients often ask him about deer collisions, says he recommends getting a lower comprehensive deductible of $100 or $250 if you live in an area with frequent deer crossings. Reducing the deductible doesn’t raise the annual premium as much as it would cost to pay a higher deductible if a deer was hit, Delaney says.
Adjusting the collision deductible in such areas isn’t necessary because such accidents are covered under comprehensive coverage limits, he says.
Hitting a deer can be expensive, and can include severe damage to the car’s body, windshield, radiator and roof.
Will rates increase?
When a deer accident claim is filed under comprehensive coverage, you’re not assigned fault and your insurance rates shouldn’t increase. However, multiple claims may lead to higher rates.
October to December are the season when deer tend to mate. Driving in late fall between dusk and dawn is the time to be most aware of deer crossings for these nocturnal animals.
Decrease the chance of hitting a deer by following these tips:
Drive within the speed limit and remain attentive. Being alert can help you react quickly if a deer darts into traffic.
Try to use the high beam lights during the night and look for the deer crossing signs so that you can become watchful.
Never turn your car sharply when you are about to hit a deer. The wheel of your car might take you straight into oncoming traffic or you can lose control of your car.
Aaron Crowe is a journalist who covers the auto industry for CheapCarInsurance.net.