Virginia Farm Bureau Warns Drivers to Watch Out for Deer

The Virginia Farm Bureau is urging motorists to be especially watchful for deer on the state’s roadways in November, the month when statistics show it is most likely for accidents involving the critters to occur.

“Deer are not always going to look before they cross the road or wait until when they feel it is the safest time,” Jimmy Maass, the bureau’s safety manager, said in a news release. “If you see one run across the road in front of you, slow down because it’s very likely that there is another one behind it.”

Deer in fieldVirginia is among the states in which it is most common for drivers to accidentally collide with a deer, according to the bureau, which provides insurance, lobbying and other services for its members throughout the state.

The bureau says its insurance arm handled 3,070 Virginia auto insurance claims stemming from deer-car collisions last year, with average losses of about $2,100 per claim and damages reported by its policyholders totaling $6.46 million statewide.

Maass said Virginians should drive more slowly and pay closer attention to their surroundings, particularly on roads that border open fields, wooded areas or bodies of water.

Lower Crash Volumes, but Higher Costs

The warning comes amid reports from other sources that crashes involving deer are actually down nationwide.

According to a State Farm study released earlier this month, the 1.09 million deer-vehicle collisions during the fiscal year that ended June 30 represented a 7 percent drop from the previous year and 9 percent fewer crashes than in 2008-09.

State Farm officials said they could not explain the decline, which varied between states, but pointed out that the cost of accidents has crept up.

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

Industry experts say deer are more active in the spring and fall because of migration and mating patterns, with State Farm reporting that more than 18 percent of deer-vehicle collisions happen in November.

Insurers typically advise motorists in states where accidents involving deer and other animals are common to consider paying a little extra for policies that include comprehensive coverage. That coverage type is not legally required in any state except as part of a vehicle loan agreement, but it is the only type that covers damages incurred as a result of animal-related accidents, severe weather and other events.

State Farm estimated that nearly 52,000 deer-vehicle crashes occurred in Virginia during the most recent year studied, making the odds of motorists in the Old Dominion State running into one of the animals during the next year about 1 in 110.

Those odds were greater than the national average of roughly 1 in 193, but far lower than those in neighboring West Virginia, where drivers have about a 1 in 53 chance of colliding with a deer.

State Farm found that Hawaiian motorists were easily the least likely to collide with a deer, with their odds calculated at 1 in nearly 6,300.

Maass advised motorists to use their high beams at night, when appropriate, but not to swerve if they see a deer in their headlights.

“Brake firmly but keep the vehicle headed in a straight line,” he said. “Swerving can confuse the animal and prevent it from picking a direction to flee, and worse yet, the driver could lose control and crash.”

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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