After a harrowing encounter with a deer in southeastern Pennsylvania this fall, Chrissi Rhodes Villa has a simple message for you:
“Please be careful on the roads and watch for deer.”
In an instant, a deer bounded into the road and collided with their car, one of nearly 2 million crashes with animals every year.
“We weren’t going fast. It just happened so fast.”
It’s not an unusual occurrence, especially in October, November, and December. US drivers on average have a 1 in 116 chance of a collision with an animal, according to the State Farm® annual study. There were over 1.9 million animal collision insurance claims in the US between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020.
Pennsylvania ranks third in the country with drivers having a 1-in-51 chance of an animal collision. West Virginia (1-in-37) again tops the list, followed by Montana (1-in-47). South Dakota and Michigan round out the top five, followed by Wisconsin, Iowa, Mississippi, Minnesota, and Wyoming.
The large majority of animal collisions are with deer. For the year July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020, there were estimated to be 1.5 million deer claims industry-wide.
“Claims after collisions with an animal range from small dents to totaled vehicles and injured drivers and passengers. By sharing ways to help drivers be aware of the increased dangers this time of year – including inclement weather, shorter periods of daylight, and students driving home after evening activities – State Farm hopes to help decrease the number of collisions and injuries.”
Michael Braaten, director, Enterprise Research
Hawaii (1-in-649), Nevada (1-in-551), and California (1-in-427) are the states where drivers have the least chance of an animal collision.
How Can You Avoid Deer in Your Headlights?
Growing deer and other animal populations combined with the displacement of animal habitats are making animal crashes more likely. There’s no real way to keep large animals like deer, moose, and elk off the road, but these safety tips can help you prevent animal-car collisions.
- Stay alert. Pay attention to “deer crossing” and other signs and be cautious in areas near woods or water.
- Use high beams. Flicking your high beams on a deer in the road may cause the animal to scurry away. High beams also help illuminate dark roads.
- Don’t swerve. If an animal-car crash is inevitable, maintain control of your vehicle and don’t veer off the road.
- Brake as necessary. If you can avoid hitting the animal, reduce your speed, honk your horn and tap your brakes to warn other drivers. If there are no drivers behind you, brake hard.
- Remember peak season. Deer crashes happen most during October through December, which is hunting and mating season. Collisions are most likely to happen in West Virginia, Montana, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota.
- Remember meal time. Watch for animals in the road between dusk and dawn.
- Watch for herds. If you see one deer, there are probably more nearby.
- Don’t rely on a whistle. No scientific evidence supports that car-mounted deer whistles work.
- Wear seat belts. Always obey speed limits and wear seat belts.