Deer season means animal strike season on the roads

October 22, 2019

Keep your eyes peeled on the roads when you start seeing hunter’s orange: Deer season and deer-crash season are one and the same.

Animal-strike-related insurance claims are more than twice as frequent as the yearly average in November, when the search for a mate keeps the big bucks on the move, according to an analysis of claims from 2006 to 2018 conducted by the Highway Loss Data Institute.

The severity of claims, measured in dollars insurers pay to cover losses, also soars during the peak month. The average cost of November animal-strike claims over the 13-year period was $3,560, compared with $2,801 for February, the month with the least severe crashes.

The data does not include information about the type of animal. However, both the timing of the spike in crashes and the greater damage they cause suggest that most of these collisions involve deer, rather than smaller animals.

“The claims follow a very consistent pattern in line with the mating and hunting season over the years, rising rapidly in October, peaking in November, and then dropping off in December and January,” says Matt Moore, senior vice president of HLDI. Animal strike claims are lowest in August.

National animal strike claim frequency, monthly average, 2006-18

A separate study of point-of-impact distribution during calendar years 2004–2017 showed that almost 9 out of 10 animal-strike collisions are front-impact crashes.

“Adapting pedestrian crash prevention systems to detect animals as well as people in the roadway could help avoid many of these collisions,” says Moore.

Automated braking systems that recognize pedestrians are becoming more common (see “New ratings address pedestrian crashes,” Feb. 21, 2019). Some automakers say their systems can also detect animals, but IIHS hasn’t tested these claims.

The cost of deer crashes has been increasing steadily, mostly due to higher-priced cars and components, HLDI data shows. In 2018, the average cost of an animal strike claim was $3,875, compared with $2,424 in 2006.

The five states with the highest November claim frequencies were West Virginia, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Michigan. The claim frequency in West Virginia — 47.8 claims per 1,000 insured vehicle years — was more than 3 times the national average for the peak month. An industry measure, an insured vehicle year represents one vehicle insured for one year or two vehicles insured for six months, and so on.

Six of the 10 counties with the highest November claim frequencies were in Pennsylvania, with list-topper Butler County, north of Pittsburgh, racking up a claim frequency more than 3½ times the national average for the month. The four others were in Maryland, New York and Virginia.

Repairs made necessary by crashes involving deer and other animals are covered by comprehensive insurance, which also covers theft and physical damage from causes other than crashes. Of the 41 companies that report comprehensive coverage to HLDI, only 25 provide information about animal strikes. Over the 13-year study period, that amounted to a total exposure of around 514 million insured vehicle years and more than 3 million claims.

States with the highest November animal strike frequency, 2006-18

Animal strike claims
per 1,000 insured vehicle years

August November
West Virginia 15.1 47.8
Iowa 8.1 31.8
Pennsylvania 6.4 29.3
Kentucky 7.4 28.1
Michigan 7.7 23.4
North Carolina 5.7 22.9
Arkansas 6.7 21.8
Virginia 4.9 20.4
Maryland 4.0 19.8
Delaware 3.8 19.8

Counties with the highest November animal strike frequency, 2006-18

Animal strike claims
per 1,000 insured vehicle years

August November
Butler, PA 10.6 53.2
Westmoreland, PA 7.6 36.9
Washington, PA 7.8 36.4
Orange, NY 7.6 33.6
Erie, PA 6.0 32.4
Frederick, MD 6.1 31.7
Loudoun, VA 4.9 25.2
Chester, PA 4.1 24.4
York, PA 3.5 23.6
Howard, MD 3.8 19.6

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