A deer or moose is probably one of the last things you want to see in your headlights but more than a million motorists a year are involved in such accidents.
In fact, there were 1.23 million auto-deer collisions between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012, costing an average of $3,305 in damage, according to State Farm. And when claims involving bodily injury are factored in, that number jumps to $10,000, according to AAA.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that 200 people die from collisions with deer each year, and a recent IIHS study found that 60 percent of people killed were not wearing a seatbelt, the Insurance Information Institute reported.
How deer collisions and animal strikes are covered by insurance
It may seem counterintuitive, but animal-related damage is not covered by the collision portion of your insurance policy. Instead it is covered by comprehensive, which also covers damage for things like wind, fire, vandalism and theft. However, if you swerve to avoid striking an animal and hit another vehicle or object, that would be covered under your collision coverage.
Top states for deer-related collisions
According to State Farm, West Virginia tops the list of states where a driver is most likely to hit a deer, with the chances being 1 in 40. South Dakota comes in second, followed by Iowa, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Tips for avoiding deer collisions
- Stay extra alert during the fall. According to the IIHS, animal strike claims peak in November and then drop off in December and January.
- Remember that deer are most active between 6 and 9 p.m., according to State Farm.
- If you see one deer, keep in mind that there are probably more nearby.
- If a collision with an animal is unavoidable, break and stay in your lane. Swerving could cause you to lose control of your vehicle or strike an oncoming car.
- Slow down and use your high beams in posted deer-crossing areas.
- If a deer is frozen in your headlights, hold down the horn in one long blast to frighten it.
- Don’t rely on deer whistles or reflectors to deter deer, which have not been proven effective.
What to do if you strike an animal
- Move your vehicle to the side of the road and turn on your hazard lights.
- Call the police and let them know if the animal is blocking traffic. If there are injuries or physical damage, you will have to fill out an accident report.
- Do not get close to or touch the animal. This could frighten it and hurt you or injure it further.
- Document the accident by taking photos of the scene, damage to your vehicle and injuries sustained by you or your passengers. This will make filing a claim easier.
- Call your insurance agent as soon as possible to begin the claims process.