October 1, 2014 (Columbus) — Drivers beware – the risk of colliding with deer is greater in October, November and December, warn officials at the Ohio Insurance Institute (OII), Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS), the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP). The increase in risk from October through January is primarily due to peak deer mating season.
ODPS reports that although such collisions decreased – 20,201 deer-vehicle crashes in 2013, down 3.8 percent from 20,999 reported crashes in 2012 (22,733 in 2011) – there were eight related fatalities and 968 injuries in Ohio last year. This compares to six fatalities and 1,014 injuries reported in 2012, and seven deaths and 1,032 injuries in 2011. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates about 200 fatalities are caused by deer-vehicle collisions each year in the US.
The five counties with the highest number of reported deer-vehicle crashes in 2013 were Stark (568), Richland (511), Lorain (486), Hamilton (474) and Clermont (466). Compared to their 2012 figures, Lorain and Stark counties showed increases while the other three reported decreases in 2013.
Counties reporting the fewest crashes in 2013 included Monroe (8), Hardin (17), Morgan (32), Harrison (34) and Carroll (37) counties. Of these, Carroll and Morgan counties showed an increase while the others experienced decreases in 2013. View 2011-13 Ohio deer crashes by county.
According to Ward‘s 2014 Motor Vehicle Facts & Figures, Ohio ranked among the top states in 2012 for the number of registered motor vehicles (6th), licensed drivers (7th) and annual miles driven (5th). These factors can affect the number of deer-vehicle crashes. ODPS reports nearly 12 million registered vehicles and over 8 million licensed drivers share Ohio roadways.
Most deer-vehicle crashes occur at dusk and dawn, October–January during deer-breeding season. Last November there were 4,513 crashes – the highest number for any month in 2013. According to data from the ODPS and ODNR, peak hours for these crashes were 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. followed by 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. In 2013, over 53 percent of these crashes occurred between 5 p.m. and 1 a.m. while 23 percent occurred early morning between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife remains committed to properly managing Ohio’s white-tailed deer populations through a combination of regulatory and programmatic changes. The goal is to provide a deer population that maximizes recreational opportunities, while minimizing conflicts with landowners and motorists. View the 2013-14 ODNR Ohio deer report.
Additional crash findings
State Farm estimates deer-vehicle collisions across the country increased nearly 3 percent from last year. Using its claims data, the insurer predicts the likelihood of an Ohio deer-vehicle collision at 1 in 127 – ranking 19th in the US (OH was 22nd in 2013), compared to the national average of 1 in 169 (view the 2014 State Farm news release). See the Insurance Information Institute’s (III) deer-vehicle collision infographic based on these findings.
The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) examined crashes involving animals and found insurance claims are nearly 3½ times as high in November as in August, when claims are lowest. Although insurance claims normally don’t specify the animal involved, other data reflects deer are the main ones.
Vehicle damage and insurance coverage
Vehicle damage varies dramatically depending on the type of vehicle, its speed upon impact and area of the vehicle that sustains the hit. According to the State Farm data, vehicle damage from deer collisions averages $3,888 per claim nationally – up 13.9 percent from the 2013 figure of $3,414.
Some crashes involve multiple vehicles. ODPS reports 20,351 vehicles were involved in the 20,201 deer-vehicle crashes in 2013. OII estimates Ohio auto damages approached $79.1 million in 2013 based on the average cost per claim and number of vehicles involved in crashes.
Most insurers cover these losses under the “other than collision” (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.
Driving tips for motorists
• Drive with extreme caution, at or below the posted speed limit, in areas with deer-crossing signs.
• Most crashes occur in the months of October through January, followed by May. Highest-risk periods are from sunset to midnight, followed by the hours shortly before and after sunrise.
• If you see one deer on or near a roadway, expect others to follow. Slow down and be alert.
• After dark, use high beams when there is no opposing traffic. High beams will 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.
• Always wear a seat belt as required by state law and drive at a safe, sensible speed for conditions.
• If a collision with a deer seems probable, hit it while maintaining full control of your vehicle. Don’t swerve your vehicle to avoid striking a deer. Brake firmly and stay in your lane. The alternative could be even worse.
• Stay alert. Deer are always unpredictable. They often dart out into traffic on busy highways in metro areas.
• Report any deer-vehicle collisions to a local law enforcement agency (such as the Ohio State Highway Patrol) or a state wildlife officer within 24 hours. Note: Under Ohio law, the driver of a vehicle that strikes and kills a deer may take possession of it by first obtaining a deer possession receipt (available from law enforcement or state wildlife officers, and from local Division of Wildlife district offices).
OII is an industry trade association representing insurance companies and agent groups for Ohio’s property/casualty industry. The ODNR Division of Wildlife regulates Ohio’s fish and wildlife resources and ODPS protects the safety and security of Ohioans through eight divisions including the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
• ODPS, Ohio Traffic Crash Facts 2013 (as of 9/15/14)
– 2011-2013 Ohio deer-vehicle collisions by county
– 2013 Deer crashes by county & month
– 2013 Ohio deer-vehicle collisions by time of day
– 2010-2012 Ohio deer-vehicle collisions by county
– 2009-2011 Ohio deer-vehicle collisions by county
• Ohio Insurance Institute
– 2013 Ohio county total deer-vehicle crashes compared to all crashes (as of 5/21/14)
• Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
– 2012 IIHS Fatality Facts: Collisions with fixed objects and animals
– 2012 IIHS release: Risk of collisions with deer is highest during November
– 2009 IIHS Status Report
– Deer B-roll (available until 12/15/14)
• Ohio Department of Insurance: 2014 news release
Ohio Insurance Institute
• Dean Fadel: 614.228.1593
Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife
• John Windau: 419.429.8359
Ohio State Highway Patrol
• Lieutenant Craig Cvetan: 614.752.4324