What will it cost if you hit Bambi?

Deer collisions are declining, but they've become more costly.

By MSN Money Partner Oct 4, 2011 2:45PM

This post comes from Donna Fuscaldo at partner site Insurance.com.


Insurance.com on MSN MoneyDeer everywhere have to be on full alert now that mating and hunting seasons have kicked into full swing. Drivers, too, must be extra vigilant to avoid collisions with deer that can lead to thousands of dollars in car repairs.


November has the highest number of deer-vehicle collisions, according to statistics just released by State Farm, the nation's largest property/casualty insurer. More than 18% of all such crashes occur in that month. October comes in second, and December is third.


The good news is that the actual number of collisions is declining sharply. There were 1.09 million collisions between deer and vehicles between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011, according to State Farm.


That's down 7% from last year and down 9% from three years ago. The odds of a vehicle hitting a deer in the next 12 months are highest in the following states:

  • West Virginia (1 in 53).
  • Iowa (1 in 77).
  • South Dakota (1 in 81).
  • Pennsylvania (1 in 86).
  • Michigan (1 in 90).

However, despite the falling collision rates, the news is not all good. The cost to fix a car after a collision with a deer is actually on the rise. According to State Farm, the average property damage cost following a deer accident in the first half of the year increased 2.2% from a year ago, to $3,171.


If you collide with a deer, will your auto insurance pick up the repair tab? It depends on the type of coverage you have. Post continues after video.

Comprehensive car insurance protects you

The comprehensive coverage option of a car insurance policy reimburses you for repair costs after a collision with an animal.


If you have an older car, you may decide against purchasing comprehensive coverage, figuring it's better to pocket that extra premium for a car that's not worth much. But that can be a mistake, especially if you live in an area heavily populated by large animals, says Rick Ward, director of auto physical damage at MetLife Auto & Home.


"It's really a personal decision, but people need to be mindful that today's used car values are at all-time highs," says Ward. "Consumers may think their car doesn't have value but it may be worth more than they think." (How does your vehicle compare on insurance rates?)


Before opting out of comprehensive coverage, Ward suggests checking the used-car value via a site such as NADAguides.com or Kelley Blue Book.


If you're renting a car and planning to drive in an area heavily populated by deer, the car should be covered by the comprehensive coverage on your own car's auto insurance policy. Check with your insurance company to find out.


If you don't have comprehensive coverage, consider purchasing protection from the rental agency. You can purchase a loss damage waiver from the rental car company. While technically not insurance, an LDW will let you off the hook if the car is damaged. In some cases, these waivers may have a deductible attached. Adding an LDW typically costs between $9 and $19 a day, according to the Insurance Information Institute.


Tips for avoiding collisions

By following some simple tips, you can increase your odds of avoiding an accident with a deer or other animal.

  • Deer are most active at dawn and dusk, so you need to be on guard during those hours. Use high-beam headlights at night so you can better see deer entering the roadway ahead of you.
  • Jimmy Spears, assistant vice president of claims at USAA, says you should be "very cognizant" of deer crossing signs and should brake if you see a deer. Don't just simply honk the horn to get them out of the way.
  • "Brake, but try not to swerve," notes Spears. "You might hit an oncoming vehicle or end up in a ditch."
  • If you do strike a deer, Spears says to stay in your vehicle. The animal will likely be scared and could jump up or charge, putting you at risk for injury.
  • Ward says it's important to remember that deer travel in herds. If you see one, it's safe to assume more will be following.

As for car-mounted deer whistles, Ward says the jury is still out about whether or not these devices actually work.


More on Insurance.com and MSN Money:


Oct 5, 2011 9:59AM

These people always get this wrong. Deer are most active from dusk til dawn, not at dusk and at dawn. There are just more drivers therefor more accidents at dusk and at dawn compared to the middle of the night, so the statistics show that. As someone that drives all night long, the deer are moving all night long and I am just as likely to hit a deer at 3 am as I am at dusk or dawn.

Oct 5, 2011 5:46PM

Someone - We shoot alot of deer down here.

I always tell people "If you don't shoot them, I'll just have to hit  them with my car."

But seriously, even in Texas we can't shoot enough to bring down the population.

The only thing that would change that is if they would allow the meat to be sold.

It's real good in chili.

Oct 5, 2011 10:39AM
About the deer whistles. For one they seem to be more effective at speeds above 35mph. I can verify this with my own experience and it's also usually printed right on the back of the packagingEye-rolling. Next off, they aren't 100%. Sometimes deer will ignore them, most times deer will stop, look, then dart one way or the other (usually away from the road, but sometimes across). Finally they're $5, so the ROI is better than the stock market. Other option: air horns!
Oct 5, 2011 2:54PM
Why did I think this article was about bedding a stripper?
Oct 7, 2011 9:53AM

Deer are like coyotes - they acclimate and then thrive in subdivisions. 

Every 4 houses in my neighborhood has a doe with this year's babies, last year's yearlings and a  bachelor buck or two.  We can't hunt them or thin them.  They stand on the edge of the road and are not afraid of cars, trucks or horns.  Most aren't hit by cars because 1) they don't spook any more, 2) commuter traffic knows where they cross the roads/highways and when slow down accordingly.

If we have a bad winter, there will be a lot of winter kill.  Too bad all those pounds of venison are not going to be in  people's freezers.  What a waste.

Oct 5, 2011 4:22PM

I started driving  truck at 15-1/2 on my dad's old logging truck.  53 years later, I've logged over 5 million miles ( before you start to question, that's only around 100,000 per year) and have hit my share of deer.  I've hit just as many in the daytime as at night, mostly by scaring them up out of bedding by the roadside (back roads).  Deer whistles don't work.  I used them for 7 years, and hit more deer during that time (5) than any other 7 year time period.  Never had another kind of accident, so I guess the best (or trying) get hit by deer also.


Best bet from my stand point would be to allow a "thinning of the herd".  Just think about it.  1.09 million autos smashed, 1.09 million deer killed, how many injured drivers and passengers.  If the public was allowed to hunt for their winter provisions like we used too, before tag limits, there would be far fewer accidents and destruction on the highways.  I'd rather put 1.09 million venison burgers in my freezer (wish it could hold that much!) than on the highways for the coyotes.

Oct 5, 2011 12:48PM

Sick-o...I don't know if they are in "herds" or not, but one night on RT 311 in VA there were over 30 deer standing in the road at about midnight. I stopped the car, the deer looked at me and didn't move. I had to creep through them as they "parted" the way. None of them darted back into the woods.

Also when you see a deer jump out in front of you, stay alert. After the first one goes past there is usually a second one that gets nailed.

Lastly, if deer whistles actually worked wouldn't the insurance industry get the government to mandate them into the manufacture of cars? They could be molded into the the front cowl of the car down by the fog light...

Oct 5, 2011 12:31PM

I also agree with Andrew Berg. They are out from dusk until dawn. The moonphase is also a big deal. They will roam around all night when it is full. They don't roam near as much when the moon is new. (They can see good in the dark, but not total darkness).

When there is little moon, they are out more at dusk and dawn, because it was harder for them to feed at night in the darkness. They usually get active after the new moon goes away (First Quarter), because there are only a few hours of moonlight, they cram their activity into when moonlight s available (or dawn/dusk). 

All you can really do is slow down or avoid dusk thru dawn.

Oct 7, 2011 11:03PM

Decided a few  yrs ago to take my son and dog on a cross country trip to NY from Colorado where we were living at the time. Everything was set, we had everything imaginable, camping equipment, first aid snack food, music. It was going to be epic. And it wasn't. On I-70 about 1:30a.m., while we were going 80 mph, both my son and I watched as if in slow motion a deer JUMP right in front of our Jeep Cherokee. Never hit the brakes because I heard horror tales and have seen some results of those situations. We all survived unscathed, the Jeep front was a mess, but my insurance covered it all. The insurance even covered our trip from NY to Wash DC with a rental.

Oct 5, 2011 2:08PM
   Deer ARE active all day long, but they do tend to "commute" from bedding areas to food and water areas at dawn, and then back at dusk.

   Deer whistles are not very effective. because they are activated by air traveling through them from your car's forward progress, their sound waves expand BEHIND your vehicle; and I have heard from retailers that the 'scare' frequency is only achieved at 55-65 mph, so not helpful on side roads, during pull-outs onto the highway, or for lead-footed bastages.

   "Don't just simply honk the horn to get them out of the way." True, but DO honk while you're braking. Everyone knows why the phrase is "deer in the headlights," but the horn scares them and gets them moving. Ryan is totally correct, BTW. Deer on paved roads are like pigs on ice; they'll need time to get out of the way. Slow down.
Oct 5, 2011 1:22PM
We are taught in driver's ed around here to look for deer all night long and early in the morning.  You can usually see the reflection of the eyes.  If you see a female when they are in rut, you can bet a male is right behind her.  He will jump out across the road.  Be careful out there.
Jun 2, 2012 12:00PM
My husband hit a deer last week at 2:30 pm...broad daylight,on 55 MPH back road. with brush on both sides.  Passenger distracted him, so not enough time to avoid.  Did over $6000 damage to front end and broke the dear's neck but did not kill her.  We had to call state patrol to come dispatch her.
Oct 5, 2011 12:23PM
Deer do NOT "travel in herds". There may be more than one, but especially during "rut", they are more solitary than not. Does often have their yearlings still with them, but that hardly constitutes a herd.
Oct 5, 2011 12:23PM

If you have a deer whistle, they look up at you right before you hit them.

My cars all have the whistles anyway.

I've driven over 700,000 miles and the only thing I have hit is deer.

When they are on the pavement, they get no traction. Their legs look like scooby doo. Just a frantic blur, but they are not going anywhere. And the faster they try to run, the less they move -like they are on ice or something.

Once I was going fast and the thing disintegrated. It went poof. There was nothing left afterwards. The horns turned to confetti and danced on my windshield.

Once I was going slow and a deer hit me. It left a tiny dent in the door.

Just go real slow at night. At least the damage is not so bad when you do hit them. 

Oct 5, 2011 12:04PM
I hit one last night. A big buck I figure the damage at a couple thousand. I had deer whistles on the vehicle. Didn't help. Hit him at exactly 8:00PM completely dark at that hour.
Oct 5, 2011 2:11PM
2 G's for this kiddo!   And the deer ran into me  (hit drivers side front panel).  State trooper ran it over after it fell in the other lane.  Nasty.  They can do some damage!
Oct 5, 2011 12:46PM
Ever think the reason deer collisons are going down, is not becouse people are getting better, but becouse there are less deer to hit?   And why do the collisons go up during the same time hunting season goes on... easy already killed my tag liment so next one i will hit with my car!!! lol
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