Oh, Deer! Animal-Vehicle Collisions on the Rise Despite Improvement in Highway Safety

Motorists take heed as deer mating season begins this fall, says USAA, the nation’s eighth largest auto insurance provider. Fatalities and injuries due to motor vehicle accidents declined from 2008 to 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), however USAA auto insurance claims records show that animal-vehicle collisions increased seven percent in the same period.

The data also indicates that animal-vehicle collisions across the country begin trending upward in September, with November spiking as the most collision-prone month. Last year, 69 percent more claims were filed for animal-vehicle collisions during the fall than in the spring. This correlates with the height of the deer breeding/mating season. Additionally, say wildlife experts, deer populations have escalated due to a lack of predators and new housing developments in traditional wildlife territories.

Collisions with animals are also costly, resulting in an average claim of $2,886 in 2009, according to USAA. They can also be deadly. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that the number of human deaths from collisions with animals rose nearly 19 percent between 2001 and 2008, from 177 to 210.

“These findings remind motorists to be extra vigilant of deer during the fall, particularly during the dawn and dusk hours when they are looking for food,” said Ken Rosen, USAA’s senior vice president of claims. “We want motorists to stay safe no matter where the road takes them this fall.”

In 2009, West Virginia had the highest frequency rate of animal-vehicle collisions, according to USAA. The 10 states with the highest occurrence rates were:

1. West Virginia 2. South Dakota 3. Iowa 4. Montana 5. Michigan 6. Wyoming 7. North Dakota 8. Wisconsin 9. Pennsylvania 10. Mississippi

With deer mating season around the corner, USAA offers the following tips:

Keep the six D’s in mind – Deer are most active at dawn and dusk so drive defensively during those hours. Stay off your cell phone and keep your seat belt fastened. IIHS says that most animal-vehicle collision deaths wouldn’t have occurred if motorists used seat belts and motorcyclists wore helmets.

Watch the signs — Deer crossing signs designate popular deer crossing locations. Slow down when you see the signs, and be on the lookout for deer herds after you’ve seen one deer — they seldom travel alone.

Brake for deer — Honking can sometimes be used to prevent deer from running into traffic, but deer are unpredictable. Safety experts recommend braking firmly and not swerving to avoid the deer. While you may be tempted to use your high-beam headlights when a deer is directly in front of you, they could cause a deer to stop in its tracks rather than running to safety just “like a deer in the headlights.” Braking firmly is the best line of defense.

Stay put if you strike a deer — Do not get out of the vehicle to inspect the animal. It could still be alive and could cause injury. It’s best to contact local authorities should the animal be blocking potential traffic. For vehicle assistance, USAA members can receive immediate accident and roadside assistance through their iPhone?’?® and AndroidTM phones via USAA’s mobile app. Members can file a claim online at www.usaa.com/claims or by calling 1-800-531-USAA (8722).

About the USAA Member 2010 Top 10 Animal-Vehicle Collision List

The USAA Member Top 10 Animal Vehicle Collision list was based on a state ranking of claims frequency calculated as the number of animal collision claims per covered exposure.

About USAA

USAA provides insurance, banking, investment and retirement products and services to 7.8 million members of the U.S. military and their families. Known for its legendary commitment to its members, USAA is consistently recognized for outstanding service, employee well-being and financial strength. USAA membership is open to all who are serving or have honorably served our nation in the U.S. military — and their families. For more information about USAA, or to learn more about membership, visit USAA.com.