If you've ever experienced the proverbial "deer in the headlights" situation, you know how sudden it is when a deer darts across the road. And, if you or someone you know has experienced a deer collision, you appreciate the damage deer can cause and are grateful for a near miss. Be extra cautious while driving in November and December. The risk for deer collisions is 3 times greater at this time of year according to the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) statistics. Increased deer activity during their migration and mating season cause a sharp increase in auto accidents involving deer.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that there are more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in 150 occupant deaths, tens of thousands of injuries and over $1 billion in vehicle damage. In 2014, 166 deaths were the result of collisions with animals, according to the IIHS. Fatal crashes are most likely to occur in rural areas and on roads with speed limits greater than 55 MPH.
How hitting a deer impacts your insurance
The comprehensive coverage part of an auto policy typically covers hitting a deer because it’s not an “at fault” accident. Since no fault is assigned, there is usually no impact to your auto insurance rates.
However, it’s important to note that there must be physical contact with the deer for it to be considered a comprehensive loss claim. If you swerve to avoid a deer (or any other type of unexpected road hazard) and end up hitting another object, the accident would fall under the collision coverage, which is considered an “at fault” accident, which typically results in a surcharge that may increase your insurance rates.
Tips to prevent deer accidents
You can take steps to reduce your chances of deer-vehicle accident.
Use extra caution between dusk and dawn – Deer tend to be nocturnal, so you’re more likely to see them between these hours.
Stay alert – Being alert may help you spot deer and allow you to react quickly. Watch for deer crossing signs.
Use your high beams – When driving at night, use your high beams when possible to illuminate the side of the road and further ahead. Greater visibility will give you more reaction time.
Slow down - If you see an animal at the side of the road slow down as they move unpredictably.
Don’t Swerve - Swerving could cause you to lose control or hit another car/object, which is likely more dangerous than hitting the deer. Brake as quickly and safely as you can. Being alert will help you avoid the temptation to swerve to avoid the unexpected.
Assume there are others – Deer travel together. If you see one, it’s likely are three more. Slow down, and if one crosses the road, assume others may follow.
While you can’t control where deer or other wildlife will show up or how they will behave, being alert especially during the months when they are more active can help you to avoid accidents. Saving you money, and saving their lives.
Source: Highway Loss Data Institute