Regulators in Iowa and Pennsylvania are warning motorists to be especially watchful for deer on the roads this month—and to consider buying optional insurance coverage that reimburses policyholders for damages caused by a run-in with an animal.
Authorities say mating and migration patterns make November the most active time of year for deer, and claims data from insurers shows that more than 18 percent of deer-related crashes happen during the penultimate month of the year. That should be of interest to anyone behind the wheel in Iowa or Pennsylvania, both of which are near the top of the list for deer-related auto accidents.
According to State Farm, Pennsylvania had about 101,300 deer-vehicle crashes in 2010, the most of any state. Iowa drivers tangled with the creatures about 27,800 times last year, a report based on the insurer’s claims data found.
But because there are far more motorists on the road in Pennsylvania, the odds of running into a deer in the Hawkeye State—1 in 77—are actually greater than those in the Keystone State—1 in 86.
Both were safer places for Bambi than West Virginia, where drivers had the highest odds of colliding with a deer—1 in 53—for the fifth straight year.
Regulators say that hitting a deer likely won’t impact a motorist’s auto premiums because drivers are usually not found to have been at fault in such accidents. Wild animals’ unpredictable behavior around roadways often causes mishaps, even for careful drivers, authorities say.
But officials point out that deer-vehicle crashes are covered only by the comprehensive coverage portion of Iowa and Pennsylvania auto insurance policies, an optional type that is not required in any state except as one of the terms of an auto loan.
“Some consumers don’t realize that collision insurance does not cover damages when a car hits a deer,” Susan Voss, Iowa’s Insurance Commissioner, said in a news release.
Industry experts such as Voss and her Pennsylvania counterpart, Mike Consedine, say comprehensive coverage generally costs a little extra to add to a policy, but it is worth buying because it offers financial protection not only against losses due to animals, but also those caused by storms and other severe weather, theft and falling objects.
“If you have comprehensive coverage with your policy, your claim will be covered, minus the deductible,” Consedine said in a statement.
Regulators in both states said there are steps that drivers can take to avoid colliding with deer, including being extra attentive at dawn and dusk, the times when the animals are most often traveling. Motorists should also scan roadsides, particularly in wooded areas, and flash their headlights and honk the horn to scare deer off the road.
Drivers who spot the creatures should avoid braking hard or swerving, as it is usually less hazardous to hit a deer than to possibly lose control of the vehicle, officials say.
According to State Farm, deer-vehicle crashes have decreased in number in recent years. The estimated 1.09 million collisions during the 12 months that ended June 30 represented a 7 percent decline from the previous year and a 9 percent drop from the year before that.
The insurer’s report found that average property damage costs for deer-involved collisions in 2010-11 was $3,171, a 2.2 percent increase from 2009-2010.