Wildlife and Collisions

Posted on September 24, 2019 at 05:24 PM

Attention Drivers: lookout for deer, other wildlife, and consider Comprehensive and “PIP” Coverage

Vehicles and wildlife can be a lethal combination on roadways. As the weather gets colder and days get shorter, drivers face a greater risk of collisions as deer and other wildlife migrate from the mountains and too frequently dart across roads and highways.

Washington drivers have a 1 in 395 chance of hitting a deer, according to a 2018 study by State Farm. In Oregon, drivers have a 1 in 256 chance and in Idaho, a 1 in 164 chance. The study also found that collisions dropped slightly nationwide in 2018, but the average national cost per claim increased from $4,179 in 2017 to $4,341.

If you hit a deer or any other animal, a standard Auto Insurance policy will pay for damage to your vehicle, less the deductible, but only if you have optional Comprehensive Coverage.  Another optional coverage – Personal Injury Protection, or “PIP” coverage  – can pay medical expenses for the driver and/or injured passengers, regardless of who is at fault in a collision.

All drivers are required by law to carry an Auto Liability Insurance policy when they drive, which provides coverage to pay for injuries or damage suffered by others in an accident which is your fault. But to pay for damage to your own vehicle from a collision with wildlife, you’ll need Comprehensive coverage, which is an inexpensive addition to your auto policy. It’s also wise to consider PIP coverage in case you or others in your vehicle suffer injuries.

Collisions between vehicles and large animals can cause severe damage and serious injury to drivers and passengers. Using caution and staying alert can save your life and eliminate the need for costly vehicle repairs.

To help you avoid wildlife while on the road, here a few defensive driving tips: 

  • Be attentive from sunset to midnight and the hours just before and after sunrise. These are the highest-risk periods for deer-vehicle collisions.
  • Drive with caution when moving through wildlife-crossing zones, in areas known to have large deer and elk populations and in areas where roads divide agricultural fields from forestland. Also be aware that wildlife collisions also happen on city arterials and suburban neighborhood streets.
  • Deer seldom run alone. If you see one deer, others may be nearby.
  • When driving at night, use high-beam headlights when there is no oncoming traffic and no cars directly ahead of you.
  • Brake firmly when you notice deer or elk in or near your path and stay in your lane. Many serious crashes occur when drivers swerve to avoid an animal and hit another vehicle or lose control of their car.
  • If you hit an animal, pull over and call law enforcement to direct you to your next step. Some states have special requirements regarding animal collisions.
  • Always wear your seatbelt. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that seat belts saved the lives of 14,955 people in 2017

For more information about insurance, contact NW Insurance Council at (800) 664-4942.

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