Wildlife Collisions

What You Should Know About: Avoiding Collisions With Wildlife

Deer or other animals crossing the road is a common hazard for drivers. Defensive driving can help you steer clear of a collision.

What you should know:

  1. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that there are more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions each year.
  2. The average wildlife-vehicle collision auto claim is $4,135.
  3. Comprehensive coverage available (but optional) in your Auto insurance policy is the only coverage that will pay for damage to your vehicle if you hit a deer or any other animal. Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage is also available to help pay for injuries to you or your passengers.

Moving vehicles and on-the-go wildlife are a lethal combination. During the fall months when the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, you face a greater risk of collisions as deer and other wildlife migrate and dart across roads and highways.

Learn about Comprehensive auto coverage and PIP

If you hit a deer or other animal, the only coverage that will pay for damage to your vehicle is Comprehensive, or “Other Than Collision”, Coverage, which is optional and not automatically included in a standard Auto Insurance policy. Insurers also offer (and some states, including Oregon, require drivers to purchase) Personal Injury Protection (PIP, also called “MedPay”) insurance. PIP helps pay medical claims if you or your passengers are injured in a collision of any kind.

Wildlife-vehicle collisions are dangerous and result in 150 occupant deaths, tens of thousands of injuries and over $1 billion in vehicle damage each year, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). The average claim paid by insurers stemming from wildlife vs. auto collisions is over $4,000. Without Comprehensive coverage, the entire cost to repair or replace your vehicle could come out of your pocket.

These defensive driving tips will help you avoid hitting a deer or other animal:

  • Be especially mindful and attentive from sunset to midnight and the hours just before and after sunrise. They 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.
  • Deer seldom run alone. If you see one deer, others are likely nearby.
  • When driving at night, use high-beam headlights when there is no oncoming traffic or 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 own 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. Also, keep your distance from the animal. A frightened and wounded deer, for example, can hurt you or further injure itself. 
  • Always wear your seatbelt. 
  • If you hit an animal and it damages your car, contact your insurance representative as soon as possible to report the incident. You can find the contact information you need on the insurance information card provided by your insurance company.
Wildlife Collisions