Ohio drivers beware. Your risk of colliding with deer may be on the rise, according to officials at the Ohio Insurance Institute (OII), Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR)-Division of Wildlife, Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) and the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP). The increased risk is partly due to the rise in reported deer-vehicle (D-V) crashes along with the fact that October through December is peak deer mating season in the Buckeye state.
According to ODPS 2015 Ohio Crash Facts, 21,061 deer-vehicle crashes were reported statewide last year, a 6.9% increase from the 19,705 deer crashes in 2014. Ohio total crashes for 2015 are the state’s highest since 2011, when 22,696 D-V crashes were reported. However, percentage-wise, OII reports that 7% of Ohio crashes in 2015 were D-V related, the same percentage as in 2014.
Four deaths and 801 injuries were caused by Ohio D-V crashes in 2015, compared to four fatalities and 798 injuries in 2014, and eight fatalities and 968 injuries in 2013. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported 166 fatalities in the US in 2014, the latest year available at publishing.
Ohio’s five counties with the highest number of reported D-V crashes in 2015 were Lorain (596), Stark and Hamilton (tie-527), Richland (503) and Clermont (491). Compared to 2014, Lorain, Stark, Hamilton and Clermont counties showed increases in D-V crashes while Richland reported a decrease.
Possible factors leading to Ohio’s uptick in D-V crashes include:
- ODPS Crash Facts figures indicate a 7% increase in crash activity between 2014 and 2015 (282,368 to 302,307) on Ohio roadways.
- According to Wards Auto 2016 Motor Vehicle Facts & Figures, Ohio ranked among the top states in 2014 for the number of registered motor vehicles (6th), licensed drivers (7th) and annual miles driven (5th).
- The US Dept. of Transportation FHA reported an increase in vehicle miles driven in Ohio for the months of Oct. 2015 through Jan. 2016, the peak months for deer mating season, compared to previous year figures.
- The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles reports that in 2015, nearly 13.7 million registered vehicles (13.5 million in 2014) and over 8.13 million licensed drivers (8.1 million in 2014) shared Ohio roadways.
Most deer-vehicle crashes occur at dusk and dawn, October–December, during deer-breeding season. According to OSHP D-V crash data by month/day, November 2015 was the peak month for such collisions with 4,791 reported (4,142 in 2014), representing nearly 23% of Ohio’s 2015 D-V crashes. According to data from the OSHP, the peak hours for these crashes were 6-7 a.m. (9.7% of crashes), 6-7 p.m. (8.8%) and 8-9 p.m. (8.6%). Prime periods of the day were evenings, 6-9 p.m. followed by mornings, 5-8 a.m.
Vehicle damage and insurance coverage
Most insurers cover these losses under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy, less the deductible. OII officials note that insurers normally don’t single out deer-vehicle collision losses in determining future premium adjustments. Such a collision alone should not affect future premiums.
The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) analyzed crashes involving animals from 2006-2015 and found insurance claims rise in October, peak in November then start to drop in December and January.
Another HLDI report shows that while fixing the damage to a car, pickup or SUV after an animal-strike can be costly, on average it’s not as costly as colliding with another vehicle. The average cost of an animal-strike claim under comprehensive coverage for 2001-14 models during calendar years 2004-13 was $2,730, compared to the average collision claim payout of $3,510.
How to avoid hitting a deer
- Know the time of day: Dusk and dawn are prime times for deer activity, especially the hours of
5-8 a.m. and 6-9 p.m., during the months of October-December.
- Heed posted deer-crossing signs: Drive with extreme caution, at or below the posted speed limit, especially in areas where deer are prevalent.
- Don’t swerve: If a collision with a deer seems probable, hit it while maintaining full control of your vehicle. Brake firmly and stay in your lane. A sudden swerve increases the risk of hitting another car or overturn.
- Use your brights: After dark, use high beams when there’s no opposing traffic. High beams illuminate the eyes of deer on or near a roadway and provide greater motorist reaction time. Don’t rely solely on high beams to deter collisions.
- Expect more than one: If you see a deer on or near a roadway, expect others to follow.
- Wear your seat belt as required by state law and drive at a safe, sensible speed for conditions.
- Stay alert: Deer are unpredictable and can dart out into traffic on busy highways.
- Don’t rely on deer avoidance devices: Deer whistles and special reflectors that are marketed to scare deer away are not proven to reduce collisions, and may lull you into a false sense of security.
Following a collision
- Move your vehicle to a safe place, preferably off the road and turn on your hazard lights.
- Contact law enforcement: For medical and traffic control assistance, if needed.
- Document the incident: Use your phone and take pictures of everything including injured animals, vehicle damage, other property damage and injuries sustained. Obtain contact info on witnesses. Download and store a copy of OII’s Auto Accident Checklist in your glove compartment. It provides a step-by-step guide to follow after a crash.
- Don’t touch an injured animal. It may scare them and cause additional chance of injury.
- Don’t assume your vehicle is drivable: Check for fluid leaks, tire damage, broken lights, heavy damage to the hood or front end, etc. If in doubt, call for a tow truck.
- Report the D-V collision to a local law enforcement agency (such as OSHP) within 24 hours. Road-killed deer may only be possessed by receipt or permit. If you pick up a deer, you can contact a state wildlife officer, sheriff’s office or the OSHP for a receipt.
- Contact your company or insurance agent if you plan to file a comprehensive claim.
Provided courtesy of the Ohio Insurance Institute