State Farm: Deer-car collisions on the upswing

John Egan

Deer and cars continue to be on a costly collision course.

The number of deer-related collisions in the U.S. rose 7.7 percent between July 2011 and June 2012, according to an analysis by auto insurance company State Farm. This jump follows a three-year span when such crashes fell by 2.2 percent.

State Farm estimates 1.23 million collisions caused by deer occurred in the U.S. between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012.

Claims on the rise

Meanwhile, State Farm says the number of deer-related auto insurance claims it has paid over the past four years has climbed by 7.9 percent, while other similar types of claims have fallen by 8.5 percent. State Farm says the average cost of property damage from deer-car crashes during the final half of 2011 and the first half of 2012 was $3,305, up 4.4 percent from same period a year earlier.

“We have known for quite a while that the frequency of auto insurance claims has been declining,” Chris Mullen, director of technology research at State Farm, says in a company news release. “But whatever is causing that trend is obviously not impacting deer-related crashes.”

It’s important to realize that, despite its name, collision coverage under your auto insurance policy does not pay for damage caused by a deer-car collision. Rather, your policy’s comprehensive coverage pays for such damage. The deductible for comprehensive coverage typically is $500.

Ted Nickel, insurance commissioner in Wisconsin, says: “Without the proper auto coverage in place, you'll be faced with a large repair bill or, worse, a totaled vehicle with no coverage.”

Where the deer are

So, where are you most likely to hit a deer when you’re behind the wheel? For the sixth consecutive year, that distinction goes to West Virginia. In that state, the odds of a motorist hitting a deer over the next 12 months are 1 in 40, up from 1 in 48 in 2011. In the U.S., the odds are 1 in 171.

In 2010, deer-car collisions led to more than $52 million in auto insurance claims for personal vehicles in West Virginia, according to the state insurance commissioner’s office.

According to State Farm, here are the 10 states where you’re most likely to run into a deer with your car:

1. West Virginia (odds of 1 in 40). 2. South Dakota (1 in 68). 3. Iowa (1 in 71.9). 4. Michigan (1 in 72.4). 5. Pennsylvania (1 in 76). 6. Montana (1 in 77.7). 7. Wisconsin (1 in 78.7). 8. Minnesota (1 in 79.9). 9. Arkansas (1 in 102.5). 10. Virginia (1 in 103.2).

State Farm’s data shows November is busiest month for deer-car encounters. More than 18 percent of such collisions take place during that month. November is followed by October and December.

Avoiding a deer collision

The Insurance Information Institute and the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance offer this advice on how to stay out of harm’s way by staying out of a deer’s way:

  • Remember that deer generally travel in herds. If you see one deer, changes are that other deer are lurking nearby.
  • Keep in mind that deer are most active between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Use high-beam headlights as much as possible at night to illuminate areas where deer may enter a roadway.
  • If you see a deer near the side of the road, slow down and blow your horn. You also may want to consider flashing your headlights to scare away the deer.
  • If you spot a deer in front of you, brake firmly, don’t swerve, stay in your lane and bring your vehicle to a controlled stop. It’s better to hit a deer than to swerve and lose control of your car, and risk rolling over or hitting a tree or an oncoming car.
  • If you hit a deer, don’t leave your car. The injured deer could harm you. Try to pull your car off the road and call the police.

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