October 21, 2015

Department of Insurance: Missourians should keep their eyes on the road as deer movement spikes this time of year

One deer strike occurred every 2.4 hours in Missouri in 2014

Jefferson City, Mo - Drivers should be on the lookout for deer on Missouri roadways this fall, since they are most active in the autumn. More deer accidents occur in October and November than the rest of the year. The National Highway Safety Administration (NHSA) reports there are about 1.5 million annual deer-related auto accidents. Vehicle collisions with deer and other animals can be costly and dangerous.

The Missouri Department of Insurance reminds Missourians to ask their agents about return of premium programs offered by their insurance companies that reward good driving. With the passage of House Bill 1022, insurers can now refuse to return premiums to policyholders as a result of not at fault accidents such as deer strikes.

"If an auto insurer's return of premium plan disqualifies a policyholder for having a not at fault accident - like a deer strike - Missourians should shop around for coverage." said John M. Huff, director of the Department of Insurance. "We have a highly competitive automobile insurance market with 186 companies actively competing for customers. With Missouri rates 26 percent lower than the national average, Missourians should take advantage of our highly competitive auto insurance market to make sure they're getting the best deal."

Rutting or mating season for many animals is October through December. This rise in the active animal population increases your risk of hitting an animal with your vehicle. Last year, Missourians experienced 3,720 deer related auto accidents. One deer strike occurred every 2.4 hours in Missouri. There were no fatalities, but the deer related accidents injured 374 people.

Drivers should review their auto insurance policies since not all policies cover damage caused by deer strikes. Comprehensive coverage is optional insurance but it does cover deer strikes. If you only have collision coverage or liability coverage, your insurance carrier will not cover damage to your vehicle resulting from a collision with an animal. The NHSA estimates that damage caused by deer accidents results in over $1 billion in annual insured losses.

Missourians are encouraged to consult their insurance agent to find out how much coverage they need. Drivers can find out about minimum auto insurance requirements and optional coverage through the department's auto insurance guide at insurance.mo.gov.

How to Avoid an Animal Collision

Consider these tips to help reduce your chances of an animal collision:

• Deer tend to travel in herds, so if you see one, lookout for more that may follow.
• Keep an eye out for deer signs. They are placed at known deer-crossing areas. Reduce your speed when you see a sign.
• Animals tend to be active during dawn and dusk so be extra-conscious during these times. Stay cautious and watch your speed.
• Make sure your headlights are in working order to ensure you see well at night. Using high beams can help you spot wildlife but be considerate of other drivers when using them.
• Stay focused while driving. Do not text, talk on your phone or allow passengers to distract you.
• Always wear your seat belt.

What to do After an Animal Accident

Some accidents are unavoidable. Knowing how to react in the event of an animal collision can help keep you safe. If you are about to hit a deer, hold firmly onto the steering wheel, apply your brakes and come to a stop. If you can't avoid a collision, try not to swerve. If you swerve, you could lose control and hit a tree or veer into oncoming traffic. After a collision with an animal, follow the steps below:

• Stay calm.
• If you can, move your vehicle to a safe place and turn on your hazard lights. This may mean pulling over to the shoulder of the highway.
• Stay away from the animal. A frightened or wounded animal can lash out and hurt you.
• If you can't move your car, or the animal carcass is blocking traffic, alert the authorities so they can clear the roadway.
• Document the incident by taking photos of your vehicle damage, the roadway and any injuries sustained.
• Check to see if your vehicle is safe to operate. Check for leaking fluid, damaged lights, loose parts or other safety hazards. When in doubt, call a tow truck.

For more information watch DIFP Weekly - Be alert to avoid wildlife collisions or visit insurance.mo.gov.