Oh, deer! Kentucky's peak deer strike season returns

Each year, the native white-tailed deer species is the cause of 150 human deaths and 1.6 million vehicle collisions nationally, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Each year, the white-tailed deer is the cause of 150 human deaths and 1.6 million vehicle collisions nationally, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Bears, wolves, sharks, snakes and alligators all probably make the cut when rattling off a list of the region’s most deadly animals, but did you know the deadliest animal in the U.S. is actually the white-tailed deer?

Each year, this native species is the cause of 150 human deaths and 1.6 million vehicle collisions nationally, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

November boasts, by far, the highest number of these collisions. In 2015, the Kentucky State Police recorded more than 3,000 deer collisions in the state (three of them fatal) over the course of the year; almost 850 of those were in November alone.  These statistics also show that nearly 47% of all collisions with deer take place during the three-month span of October, November and December.

Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) Insurance claims data supports this trend. Approximately $26.8 million in deer collision claims were filed with KFB in all of 2015, but nearly half of those claims ($12.8 million) were reported from incidents occurring in the last three months of the year.

Further analysis of KFB Insurance claims data shows automobiles collided with deer on Kentucky roadways at a clip of 31.82 deer per 1,000 drivers during the month of November last year. As a result of those collisions, KFB Insurance customers filed more than $6 million in claims during that month alone.

According to a report by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, the estimated white-tailed deer population in the Commonwealth is 827,355 (which, by the way, is a 3% increase from the previous year’s population). Because Kentucky’s borders contain 39,486 square miles of land, that means there’s an average of 20.9 deer per square mile all across the Commonwealth. Statistically speaking, that sets up drivers for a lot of chances to hit one!

As migration and mating season comes to a peak, KFB advises travelers to drive defensively, especially in wooded areas and at dusk. Here are some ways to avoid a deer-induced disaster this season:

  • Be particularly alert right around sunrise and between sunset and midnight, when deer are especially active. According to the Kentucky State Police, almost 50% of deer collisions happen between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m., with the 6 p.m. hour seeing more collisions than any other single hour.
  • If you see a deer, slow down immediately! Firmly apply your brakes but continue to drive in a straight line. A swerving vehicle can confuse the animal and prevent it from picking a direction to flee. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), most deaths in collisions with deer occur in subsequent events when a vehicle runs off the road or a motorcyclist falls off the bike. 
  • Drive with caution when moving through deer-crossing zones and in areas where roads divide farm fields from forestland. Deer crossing signs are posted to alert drivers that certain stretches of road are commonly populated with deer. 
  • If you see a deer, expect there to be others. Deer travel in herds.
  • At night, use high beams whenever possible. They better illuminate the eyes of deer on or near the roadway.
  • Do not depend on deer whistles, deer fences or reflectors. These devices have not been proven to reduce collisions. The III recommends one long horn blast to frighten the deer away.
  • Always wear a seat belt. The Kentucky State Police reports that most people injured or killed in automobile collisions with deer are not wearing seat belts.
  • Check your coverage! Many insurance companies do not cover deer strikes under collision coverage. Those insured by Kentucky Farm Bureau need to have Other than Collision to cover “contact with a pedestrian, animal or bird."

>> We want you to be safe out there on the road… but accidents still happen.
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