As a child, seeing a deer along the road was exhilarating. A big, majestic creature, standing motionless, observing, listening, then with explosive power, bounding off into the woods. Incredible. As an adult, I still feel that same rush of adrenaline when out of the corner of my eye I spot a deer alongside the road as I navigate between the lines, focused on traffic and road conditions. This rush is for a very different reason—deer are unpredictable when startled or feel threatened, and it’s not uncommon for them to dart across the road in front of traffic, leading to dire outcome for both the deer and vehicle (and occupants).
Deer and Large Animal Accidents By The Numbers
State Farm insurance estimated a total of 1.9 million animal strike insurance claims in the U.S. this past year, the majority occurring in the fall. Average damage expense tops $3,000, and were the cause of more than 200 deaths per year for the last several years. While some fatalities occur as a result of extensive damage on a small, lightweight vehicle, many are the result of poor driver reaction to a large animal entering the roadway. The likelihood is what really stings, however, with an average of 1 in 116 American drivers filing an animal collision claim with their insurance.
While these numbers are impressive—or daunting—they fluctuate greatly by state. For example: leading the charge, West Virginians have an average of 1 in 38 accident-to-driver ratio, followed by Montana (1 in 48), and Pennsylvania (1 in 52), all the way down to Hawaii, with a 1 in 731 claim-to-insured ratio.
How To Avoid A Deer Crash
While not all crashes are avoidable, there are certain precautions we can take in order to reduce the likelihood of collisions. Fall is both beautiful and treacherous for both drivers and animals, as daylight hours diminish, more animals are forced to forage in the dark. Also, the beautiful leaves changing colors are beautiful, however the reddish-brown hue of fallen leaves blend beautifully with a deer’s fur, further complicating spotting them already limited light. Also, when you see a deer cross ahead of you, be extra cautious, they often travel in multiples, and will cross one after the other. Also, those that travel through forested areas often may install deer whistles on their bumper to warn wildlife, however these are not fool-proof, you may still encounter deer on or near the roadway.
Speed decreases your reaction time, and with 60-80,000 pounds in tow, you’re not exactly able to maneuver or stop on a dime, so you’ll want whatever reaction time advantage you can get. Stopping within the throw of your headlights may not be enough if you’re flanked by a doe, so travel at a speed where you can manage watching the roadside to minimize the likelihood of being blindsided by a woodland creature.
When you do come across a deer which may dart across or is standing in the roadway, brake, but do not swerve. The most serious accidents occur when a driver swerves to avoid hitting an animal. The few thousand dollars worth of bodywork repair to your truck is manageable, a human fatality is tragic. Your truck can handle an impact from a few hundred pound animal, but you don’t want to risk sending nearly 40 tons of mass off the roadway or into oncoming traffic to avoid a minor animal collision.
Exercising a little extra caution this fall and winter can help keep you on the road through the season and minimize any claims to your insurance policy, keeping premiums under control. If you’re ready to take a closer look at your coverage and premiums, contact ENGS Insurance Agency today to schedule a consultation.