Insurance claims for crashes involving animals are nearly 3 times as high in November as in other months, and damage claim costs are climbing. These are the main findings of a Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) analysis.
West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky have higher insurance claim frequencies than other states for animal strikes in November. West Virginia's frequency of 51 per 1,000 insured vehicle years is 3.6 times the national average of 14.1 for the month. (An insured vehicle year is a vehicle insured for 1 year, 2 vehicles for 6 months each, etc.). Insurance claims usually don't specify the animals involved in crashes, but Institute research shows deer are the main ones, especially in serious crashes (see "Human deaths in crashes with animals can be cut even if crashes aren't," Jan. 3, 2005).
For every 1,000 insured vehicle years, 14.1 animal-related claims were filed under comprehensive coverage in November 2008, compared with an average of 5 claims per 1,000 during January-September. Results are in line with HLDI's prior findings (see "Fatal crashes with deer jump in November," Nov. 25, 2008).
Drivers are more likely to encounter deer during fall when bucks roam in search of mates, says Paul Johansen of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
The average damage claim cost in November 2008 was $2,913, HLDI reports. This is 8 percent higher than November 2007's average of $2,689 and 11 percent higher than in November 2006, when the average damage claim cost $2,618. For the entire study period (January 2006 through April 2009), the average November claim cost of a vehicle-animal collision was $2,743.
"Drivers should be cautious about deer in November, particularly where they're prevalent," says Kim Hazelbaker, HLDI senior vice president. "Luckily, most crashes with deer don't kill car occupants."
Federal data show crash deaths are increasing. In 1994, 131 people died in crashes involving animals. By 2001, the number was 177, and in 2008 it was 210. Many of these deaths wouldn't have occurred if motorists used safety belts and motorcyclists wore helmets. The 5 states with the most deaths in collisions with animals in 2004-08 are Texas with 88, Wisconsin with 62, Ohio with 51, and Pennsylvania and Michigan with 46 each.
State Farm estimates there were 2.4 million vehicle-deer collisions on U.S. roads from July 2007 to July 2009, 18 percent more than 5 years earlier. West Virginia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania top the insurer's list of states where deer crashes are most likely to occur.