Wildlife Collisions

Posted on November 13, 2023 at 07:58 PM

Wildlife collisions declined in 2022 but driver safety – and insurance coverage – remain crucial

Insurance claims for wildlife-vehicle collisions mysteriously dropped in November 2022, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), even as traffic returned to pre-pandemic levels. That doesn’t mean drivers can relax, however. Vehicles and wildlife can be a lethal combination, so it’s important to continue safe driving practices and consider auto insurance options.

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 unexpectedly dart across roads and highways. The month of November typically has the highest number of wildlife-vehicle collisions.

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.

A standard Auto Insurance policy will pay for damage to your vehicle, less the deductible, if you hit a deer or any other animal but only if you have optional Comprehensive Coverage.  Another optional coverage for Washington and Idaho – 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. PIP Coverage is mandatory in Oregon.

According to a 2022/2023 analysis by State Farm, Washington drivers have a one-in-286 chance of hitting a deer, Oregon drivers have a one-in-197 chance and Idaho drivers have a one-in 136 chance. And more deer-vehicle collisions occur between October and December than any other time of year.

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 that 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 if you or others in your vehicle suffer injuries.

NW Insurance Council offers the following defensive driving tips to help you avoid wildlife while on the road:

  • 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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