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No matter how careful a driver is, the chances of hitting a deer or other large animal doubles during the fall because many animals, including deer, are more active. The good news is that even though there are nearly 4 million more licensed drivers on the road, the chances of a collision have decreased in the past year. Drivers have a 1 in 167 chance of being involved in a collision with deer or larger animals such as elk—a slight drop from last year, when that chance was 1 in 162.
These are the national averages though and vary depending on the state. The likelihood of hitting a large animal in Montana is 1 in 57. However, the chance is only 1 in 232 in New Jersey, and nearly half of all deer-related crashes in New Jersey occur October to December when the weather cools, and deer are most active.
Drivers on the road during dawn and dusk are also at a higher risk of a collision with deer.
Deer Collisions & Insurance: Are You Covered?
Whether or not a driver is covered financially by insurance after hitting a deer depends on the type of auto insurance policy they have in place.
Drivers need comprehensive coverage in order for an accident with a deer to covered by their car insurance. Comprehensive insurance protects drivers when a collision occurs that was caused by an “Act of God” or did not involve crashing into another object or person. Examples include a tree branch falling on a parked car, lightning striking a car, or damage caused by deer running into a vehicle. Comprehensive coverage is optional in every state in the U.S., so drivers who only carry the legal minimum for car insurance won't be covered.
Many drivers skip adding additional coverages, including comprehensive, to their auto insurance to save money. A full coverage policy (which includes bodily injury, property damage, uninsured/underinsured motorist, PIP, collision and comprehensive) costs more than two times as much as a liability-only policy does, but it also protects a driver in more scenarios than a liability-only auto insurance policy.
The average cost of a claim for hitting a deer or other large animal in 2017–2018 is $4,341, a 3.9% increase from the previous year. In most cases, drivers don’t have an extra $4,000 to put towards repairing a vehicle. It would be economical to add comprehensive coverage to their auto insurance policy for a fraction of the expense and have the coverage in place.
How Drivers Can Prevent Collisions with Deer
Since the fall can be a dangerous time for drivers and deer, there are a few steps drivers can take to prevent collisions.