9 tips for avoiding a deer collision this fall
Each year, the native white-tailed deer species is the cause of 150 human deaths and 1.5 million vehicle collisions nationally, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Bears, wolves, sharks, snakes and alligators all probably make the cut when rattling off a list of the nation’s most intimidating 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 1.5 million vehicle collisions nationally, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In 2017, the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety recorded 3,181 deer collisions in the state over the course of the year.
November boasts, by far, the highest number of these collisions. In fact, you are 3.5 times more likely to hit a deer in November over August, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute. Statistics regularly reflect that close to half 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 $28.4 million in deer collision claims were filed with KFB in all of 2017, but more than 42% of those claims (upwards of $12 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 30.14 deer per 1,000 autos during the month of November last year. As a result of those collisions, KFB Insurance customers filed 1,378 claims at the cost of more than $6 million during that month alone.
According to a report by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources for 2016-2017, the estimated white-tailed deer population in the Commonwealth is 858,876 (which, by the way, is a 4% 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 21.75 deer per square mile all across the Commonwealth. Statistically speaking, that sets up drivers for a lot of chances to hit one! (Fun fact: Drivers are least likely to hit a deer in the state of Hawaii, where the odds are just 1 in 18,955.)
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 KSP, 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 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 KSP reports that most people injured or killed in automobile collisions with deer are not wearing seat belts.
- If you do hit a deer, do not touch the animal! The deer, in attempting to move or get away, could hurt you or itself.
- 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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