Maryland Drivers Warned of Risk of Deer-Vehicle Collisions

Maryland officials are warning motorists to steer clear of deer on the roads throughout November, when the animals are out in greater numbers because of breeding season, migratory patterns and hunters.

“During the fall … deer travel more often and their behavior can be unpredictable,” Brian Eyler, a deer project leader with the state Department of Natural Resources, said in a news release. “Male deer are particularly prone to traveling without concern for roadways and automobiles. Motorists need to be especially alert from sunset to dawn as deer are more active during these periods.”

Deer in fieldBecause deer and other wild animals can be so unpredictable, authorities say motorists are usually not found at-fault in such crashes. But colliding with one of the hoofed critters will likely mean some vehicle damage, and for those who do not have comprehensive coverage as part of the auto insurance Maryland drivers are legally required to carry, that could mean paying steep repair bills out of pocket.

Officials with Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources say the chances of an unexpected encounter with a deer are greatest during November, when experts say as many as 18 percent of deer-car crashes happen.

According to a State Farm study based on the insurer’s claims data, Maryland ranked 13th among states with the greatest likelihood of running into a deer in 2010-11, up one spot from the previous fiscal year studied.

The state saw 32,675 deer-vehicle crashes involving its roughly 3.9 million drivers, who have about a 1-in-119.5 chance of running into a deer during the next 12 months.

The Insurance Information Institute says there are more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle crashes nationwide each year, resulting in more than a billion dollars in vehicle damage, 150 fatalities and at least 1.5 million dead deer.

But according to State Farm data, the number of deer-vehicle crashes in the U.S. is actually falling.

The study released last month estimated there were 1.09 million such crashes during the 12 months that ended June 30, a 7 percent decline from the previous year and a 9 percent drop from two years earlier.

State Farm officials said they could not explain the decline, which was steeper in some states than in others, but running into a deer can still be costly.

Average property damage costs for deer-involved collisions in 2010-11 was $3,171, researchers found, a 2.2 percent increase from the previous year.

The largest number of deer-auto crashes happened in Pennsylvania, which had about 101,300.

But the state where drivers had the greatest chance of colliding with a deer was West Virginia, which has earned that distinction for five straight years.

Drivers in the Mountain State have a 1-in-53 chance of colliding with a deer at some point during the year.

Hawaiian drivers were easily the safest when it came to close encounters of the corvine kind. Their odds are 1 in nearly 6,300.

Comprehensive coverage, which is not required in any state except as part of a vehicle loan agreement, can cover losses caused by deer and other animals, severe weather and other events.

Insurance industry experts generally advise motorists who live in states such as West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland—where there are large numbers of deer and other wildlife—to consider including comprehensive coverage with their auto policies, particularly if a vehicle is new or otherwise very valuable.

About Matthew Morisset
Matthew Morisset is a proud alumnus of the University of Redlands, where he obtained a degree in English Literature. Utilizing his passion for analysis and writing, Matthew looks for important trends in the auto insurance industry and their implications for consumers and the market as a whole.

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