Watch the road! Deer season creates hazardous driving conditions

Tips to avoid deer-related collisions

NEW YORK, October 23, 2006 — Cars and deer are a lethal combination. During deer season, which generally runs from October through December, there is a dramatic increase in the movement of the deer population. Many of these deer find their way onto highways and into suburban neighborhoods. As a result, more deer-vehicle collisions occur in this period than at any other time of year, so drivers need to be especially cautious, warns the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that there are more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in 150 occupant deaths, tens of thousands of injuries, and over $1 billion in vehicle damage. The average cost per insurance claim for collision damage is about $2,600, with costs varying depending on the type of vehicle and severity of damage. When you factor in auto claims involving bodily injury, the average rises to over $11,000, according to the I.I.I.

“As our wildlife habitat continues to shrink, accidents with deer and other animals are likely to increase. We need to be more vigilant in our driving,” says Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I.

There are steps you can take to decrease the likelihood of being involved in a deer-vehicle collision. After an aggressive communications campaign to warn policyholders and the general public about the hazard, Pennsylvania-based auto insurer Erie Insurance reported a six-per-cent decline in deer claim frequency in 2005. Getting educated and taking precautions can make a difference.

The following facts can be helpful in avoiding deer-related collisions:

  • Deer aren’t found just on rural roads near wooded areas; many deer crashes occur on busy highways near cities.
  • Deer are unpredictable, especially when faced with glaring headlights, blowing horns, and fast-moving vehicles. They often dart into traffic.
  • Deer often move in groups. If you see one, there are likely more in the vicinity.

When driving, the I.I.I. recommends taking the following precautions:

  • Drive with caution when moving through deer-crossing zones, in areas known to have a large deer population and in areas where roads divide agricultural fields from forestland.
  • Always wear your seat belt and stay awake, alert, and sober.
  • When driving at night, use high-beam headlights when there is no oncoming traffic. The high beams will better illuminate the eyes of deer on or near the roadway.
  • Be especially attentive from sunset to midnight and during the hours shortly before and after sunrise. These are the highest-risk times for deer-vehicle collisions.
  • Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path, but stay in your lane. Many serious crashes occur when drivers swerve to avoid a deer and hit another vehicle or lose control of their cars.
  • Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences, and reflectors to deter deer. These devices have not proven effective.

In the event your vehicle strikes a deer, try to avoid going near or touching the animal. A frightened and wounded deer can hurt you or further injure itself, warned the I.I.I. If the deer is blocking the roadway and poses a danger to other motorists, you should call the police immediately.

Contact your insurance agent or company representative as quickly as possible to report any damage to your car. Collision with a deer or other animals is covered under the comprehensive portion of your automobile policy.

For more information, go to the I.I.I. Web site at

The I.I.I. is a nonprofit, communications organization supported by the insurance industry.