When Bambi doesn’t stay in the forest; vehicle vs. deer accidents

Each day your outside employees probably spend a considerable amount of time in their vehicles. They drive to and from various job sites to perform their daily tasks for your customers, traveling along beautiful countryside on roads in your rural communities.

Your driver most likely enjoys many sights and sounds of nature and wildlife during those trips. When the wildlife stays in the field or forest all is good, but trouble abounds when they appear out of nowhere and leap into the path of an oncoming vehicle. With your rural setting comes an increased risk of deer collisions.

According to statistics published by the Insurance Information Institute, there were 211 deaths from collisions with animals in 2017. This trend had been increasing previous to that time but in the past few years has leveled off. The top five states for claims from a collision involving an animal in 2019 were ranked as follows: West Virginia at No. 1, followed by Montana, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Iowa. The majority of animal-strike claims are for front-end damage, with the next frequent point of impact being the driver’s side of the vehicle.

Deer accidents happen at any time, but during mating season, or rut, in the fall, the incidence of these claims definitely rises. Data from 2019, the most recent claim year, shows there were three times as many claims in November and two times as many claims in October involving drivers hitting a deer or a deer running into a vehicle as during any other month. Teaching your employees how to react to a deer sighting and reminding them to be more vigilant to watch out for deer at this time of year may help to prevent a serious accident.

In review of the claim loss data from two of our main insurance carriers, deer claims account for approximately 10-12% of all vehicle collisions. During the past three claim years this number has stayed stable without much variance in the frequency of occurrence. In 2019 the average claim cost for a deer accident was $4,574, while the overall average cost incurred during the last three-year period, from 2016-2018, was $3,997. This reflects the gradual increase in the cost of vehicle repairs and associated claims expense during that time.

Smaller cars tend to have more damage and therefore more expensive claims versus trucks and SUVs, which will have the lowest overall cost. Generally, animal-collision claims are not as pricey as colliding with another vehicle, but while these claims aren’t considered high dollar or large loss claims, there is always the potential for driver injury with any vehicle collision.

There are some common-sense rules that drivers should know and follow to help prevent these accidents:

Above all is the reminder to slow down and stay alert to both sides of the roadway, prepared to come to a complete stop if necessary. Your drivers should always be on alert but be most alert at sundown and sunrise, when deer are more active. After dark, using high beams whenever it is safe to do so may help drivers see deer that are down in ditches.

Deer crossing signs may be posted at known areas of high activity, but that doesn’t mean the animals won’t run across the highway at any spot. Deer generally travel in groups or herds, so if one crosses a road safely, it is highly possible that others may follow, often in single file. When traveling on a multilane road, drivers should use the center lane whenever possible, which gives them more time to see and react to a sudden dart out.

Most importantly, if a deer does get directly in the path of a vehicle, the driver should not swerve, since that could put the vehicle into oncoming traffic or off the road into a tree. When this happens the incident of a serious injury to the driver is certainly more likely to occur. Finally, remind drivers to always use their seat belts; if an accident does occur it will decrease the chance of injury.If you ha

ve any questions or need assistance with any claims situation, the Telcom claims department is committed to be here to help you every step of the way. We enjoy hearing from you, and we’re only a phone call or email away if you have any questions or need additional information or resources. Please feel free to contact me at 800-222-4664, ext. 1081, or bwm@telcominsgrp.com; or contact Marilyn at 800-222-4664, ext. 1085, or mab@telcominsgrp.com.