When deer and cars collide, does auto insurance cover the damage?

As the weather shifts from summer to fall, drivers and deer often find themselves sharing the road. Although deer collisions have fallen 9 percent in the past three years, according to State Farm, they still peak between October and December (deer migration and mating season). And they are costly -- and deadly.
How damaging are collisions with deer?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, about 1.6 million deer-vehicle collisions occur each year, resulting in about 150 passenger deaths and more than $3.6 billion in vehicle damage. According to State Farm, the average dollar amount for deer-auto collisions in 2010 was about $3,000; in more extreme cases, the car is totaled and claims are much higher.
Protection from deer collisions
Given the high cost of deer collisions, having the right auto insurance coverage can be key in getting back on the road without going broke. Because of its name, some drivers might assume their collision coverage also includes run-ins with deer. In reality, however, run-ins with wildlife typically are covered by comprehensive insurance.
Comprehensive insurance is optional and can be pricey, which is why many people forgo it and simply opt for the minimum amount of coverage where they live. However, comprehensive insurance not only covers run-ins with wildlife, but vehicle break-ins, flood damage, hail damage and theft.
Preventing deer collisions
Although having comprehensive coverage would help with damage after a deer collision, preventing such crashes in the first place is the best way to protect your car, yourself and your passengers. Wisconsin's Office of the Commissioner of Insurance provides the following tips for those driving in states with big deer populations:
  • Pay attention in deer-crossing zones. Many areas mark heavily populated areas with deer-crossing signs. Proceed with caution through these areas, driving slower than you normally would.
  • When driving at night, use your high beams when there is no oncoming traffic. These will help be more aware of deer on the side of the roads in dark areas, so you can stop if needed. Deer are nocturnal animals, so they are more active at night.
  • If you see deer on the side of the road, use your horn to scare them away.
  • If you see a deer on the road ahead, stay in your lane, brake firmly and bring your vehicle to a stop. Do not attempt to avoid the deer by swerving into another lane -- you could cause an accident with another car or increase the chance of a rollover accident.
  • If you do hit a deer, stay in your car. If it's safe to do so, get your car off the road. Call the police.
Deer collision hotspots
 Deer-vehicle collisions are much more common in some states than others, according to State Farm. West Virginia, Iowa and South Dakota have the highest number of deer-vehicle collisions each year, and drivers in Arizona, Hawaii and Nevada are the least likely to experience such a collision. November has more deer collisions than any other month, followed by October and December.

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