Ohio statewide deer-vehicle collisions continue decline, but damages are up 6%

COLUMBUS (Sept. 29, 2015) Ohio drivers beware. The risk of colliding with deer increases during the fall warn officials at the Ohio Insurance Institute (OII), Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) and the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP). The increased risk from October through December is primarily due to peak deer mating season, which starts next month.

According to ODPS, 19,705 deer-vehicle (d-v) crashes were reported in 2014, down 2.5 percent from the 20,201 crashes in 2013, (20,999 in 2012). Although such collisions are on the decline in the Buckeye state, there were four related fatalities and 798 injuries last year. This compares to eight fatalities and 968 injuries reported in 2013, and six deaths and 1,014 injuries in 2012. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates about 200 fatalities are caused by deer-vehicle collisions each year in the US.

Ohio’s five counties with the highest number of reported d-v crashes in 2014 were Stark (512), Richland (510), Lorain (510), Hamilton (433) and Clermont (482). Compared to their 2013 figures, Lorain and Clermont counties showed increases while the other three reported decreases in 2014.

Counties reporting the fewest crashes in 2014 included Monroe (12), Carroll (16), Morgan (20), Harrison (26) and Noble (37) counties. Of these, Monroe County showed an increase while the others experienced decreases in 2014. CLICK HERE for 2012-14 Ohio deer crashes by county.

According to Ward’s 2015 Motor Vehicle Facts & Figures, Ohio ranked among the top states in 2013 for the number of registered motor vehicles (6th), licensed drivers (7th) and annual miles driven (5th). These factors may affect the number of deer-vehicle crashes. ODPS reports nearly 11.5 million registered vehicles and almost 8 million licensed drivers share Ohio roadways.

Most deer-vehicle crashes occur at dusk and dawn, October–December, during deer-breeding season. In November 2014 there were 4,142 crashes on Ohio roadways – making it last year’s peak month for such collisions. 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 2014, nearly 53 percent of these crashes occurred between 5 p.m. and 1 a.m., while 24 percent occurred early morning between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m.

Other Ohio deer-vehicle crash facts

State Farm estimates deer-vehicle collisions across the country are just as likely this year as last. Using its claims data, the insurer estimates an Ohio driver’s odds of a deer-vehicle collision at 1 in 131 – ranking 20th in the US (Ohio was 19th in 2014). This is above the national odds of 1 in 169, according to State Farm data.

Vehicle damage and insurance coverage 

The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) examined crashes involving animals and found insurance claims peak in November, dropping off in December and January. The HLDI analysis 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.

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, 2015 vehicle damage from deer collisions averages $4,135 per claim nationally – up 6 percent from the 2014 average of $3,888.

Some crashes involve multiple vehicles. ODPS reports 19,790 vehicles were involved in the 19,705 deer-vehicle crashes in 2014. The Ohio Insurance Institute estimates d-v auto damages for 2014 at nearly $77 million, based on the average cost per claim ($3,888) and number of vehicles involved in crashes last year (19,790). OII auto damage estimates for 2013 were nearly $79.1 million.

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 high deer activity.
  • Most crashes occur in the months of October through December.
  • 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 unpredictable and can dart out into traffic on busy highways.
  • Report any deer-vehicle collisions to a local law enforcement agency (such as the Ohio State Highway Patrol) 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 trade 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 six divisions including the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

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RESOURCES
ODPS Ohio Traffic Crash Facts 2014 (as of 9/15/15)
– 2012-2014 Ohio deer-vehicle collisions by county (http://bit.ly/1KnludO)
– 2014 Deer crashes by county & month (http://bit.ly/1OqAoX0)
– 2014 Ohio deer-vehicle collisions by time of day (http://bit.ly/1KdYscy)
– 2011-2013 Ohio deer-vehicle collisions by county (http://bit.ly/1p1A1Cc)
– 2010-2012 Ohio deer-vehicle collisions by county (http://bit.ly/GzzBDP)

ODNR, Division of Wildlife
– Ohio hunters harvest more than 65,000 deer during 2014 Weeklong Gun Season (http://bit.ly/1isBSnv)
– 2013-14 ODNR Ohio deer report (http://bit.ly/1qNI6Af)

2015 State Farm release (http://bit.ly/2cObFxl)

Ohio Insurance Institute 2014 release (http://bit.ly/1wXP19E)

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
– 2014 IIHS release: Colliding with deer is costly, especially for some vehicles (http://bit.ly/1gp7M2p)
–2013 IIHS Fatality Facts: Collisions with fixed objects and animals (http://bit.ly/1yiCHVG)
– Deer B-roll  (http://bit.ly/1iSsjy2)

CONTACTS
•  Ohio Insurance Institute: Dean Fadel (deanf@ohioinsurance.org), 614.228.1593
•  Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources, Div. of Wildlife: John Windau (john.windau@dnr.state.oh.us), 614.265.6325
•  Ohio State Highway Patrol: Lieutenant Craig Cvetan (ccvetan@dps.ohio.gov), 614.752.4324