Fall is the deadliest time of year for vehicle versus animal accidents. The highest number of deaths happen from October to December, according to a 2021 analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute.
In 2021, animal vs. motor vehicle collisions killed 164 people, per the IIHS. State Farm estimates that animals caused 2.1 million crashes from July 2020 to June 2021. The number dropped to 1.8 million collisions from July 2022 to June 2023.
“Crashes between motor vehicles and animals happen in every state and all year round, yet the data confirms that the most dangerous months for animal collisions are November, October and December, in this order,” wrote State Farm Public Affairs Specialist Jordi Ortega in a release. “November historically (is) the most dangerous month according to State Farm analysis.”
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Deer are the main culprit
Deer caused more than half of those crashes. State Farm estimated that deer were responsible for 1.4 million accidents nationwide.
“Deer crashes happen most often during October through December, which is hunting and mating season,” wrote Ortega.
Top animal collisions June 2021-July 2022, State Farm estimated:
- Deer: 1.4 million
- Unidentified: 189,715
- Rodents: 110,976
- Dogs: 92,924
- Raccoons: 58,020
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Shorter days of fall and winter actually trigger mating season for deer.
“The animals have a special gland that perceives the amount of light in a given day. And as the amount of light decreases, as we get into fall, the deer begin secreting hormones,” Clint McCoy, a biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife, told FOX Weather in a previous interview. “The hormones eventually tell them it’s time to breed.”
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“In our files, we find chickens, alligators, bats, cows, pigs, armadillos, bears, donkeys, eagles, horses, coyotes, owls, cats, dogs… and the list goes on,” wrote Ortega. “And then there’s the “unidentified animals” category: those that drivers were unable to identify at the time of the accidents, often due to how fast everything happened, and those for which claim specialists simply didn’t have more information.”
By state, State Farm estimated that Pennsylvania leads the number of insurance claims filed in the 2021-2022 time period for animal collisions.
- Pennsylvania: 166,404
- Michigan: 132,387
- Texas: 131,373
- California: 104,767
- North Carolina: 98,409
Texas’ accidents jumped 19% from the previous 12 months. California’s numbers increased by 65%.
How likely are you to hit an animal?
“Interestingly, looking at the likelihood that drivers have of hitting an animal renders a different ranking: it turns out that West Virginia leads the nation in this type of risk (1 in 37 chance), followed by Montana, where the chances of hitting an animal (1 in 39) grew 17% since the previous period, South Dakota (1 in 48), Michigan and Pennsylvania (both, with 1 in 54 chance),” wrote Ortega.
The chance of hitting an animal considers the number of licensed drivers in the state and the total number of filed claims.
U.S. drivers, on average, have a 1 in 127 chance of an animal collision. State Farm said that the growing deer population and lost habitats due to development are making crashes more likely.
The number of deaths dropped dramatically in 2021 to 164.
“From 1975 to the mid-2000s, there was a general upward trend in deaths from collisions with animals, but this trend has since leveled off,” states the IIHS. “These deaths increased from 89 in 1975 to 223 in 2007 and then declined to 164 in 2021.”
Texas has led the states for human deaths from animal collisions in the past decade.
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IIHS stats of deaths due to animal collisions from 2021-2021:
- Texas: 197
- Wisconsin: 117
- Pennsylvania: 114
- Michigan: 99
- Ohio: 60
“Over the past 10 years, Texas had the highest numbers of deaths from collisions with animals,” states the IIHS report. “The numbers reflect the size of the driving population, the size of the animal population and the percentage of rural roads.”
Does car insurance cover an animal accident?
Does insurance cover an animal accident? The answer is yes and no. If you hit the animal, comprehensive insurance may cover the loss, according to State Farm. Stay in the car if the animal is injured. Injured wildlife can act unpredictably.
Collision insurance would usually cover the costs if you swerve to avoid an animal and then hit something.
“If an animal strikes, it’s what’s called an act of God or act of nature,” Michelle Chatwin of AAA said in a statement. “You didn’t run into that animal on purpose, so it won’t impact your premium.”
If a pet ran loose and caused an accident, the owner might be liable for the damage. In other cases, the damage could be covered under comprehensive insurance, according to State Farm. The company warns not to leave the scene if you injure a pet, you could be cited for animal cruelty.
Avoid the accident
State Farm offers tips on avoiding animal collisions. Number one is to slow down, especially if you see an animal by the side of the road.
“Watch for herds,” if you see one deer, there are probably more nearby,” State Farm advises.
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More State Farm tips:
- Stay alert and scan the road day and night, pay attention to ‘deer crossing’ signs
- Reduce distractions, put the cell phone away
- Break as necessary, “If you can avoid hitting the animal, reduce your speed, honk your horn and tap your brakes to warn other drivers.”
- Don’t swerve, “If a crash with an animal is inevitable, maintain control of your vehicle and don’t veer off the road. Use high beams. Flicking your high beams on a deer may cause the animal to scurry away.”
- Use extra caution during deer mating and hunting season
The IIHS states that 37% of deadly accidents involving animals don’t even occur from hitting the animal. Swerving causes rollovers, collisions with fixed objects off the road, hitting another car and other fatal crashes.
Based in New York, Stephen Freeman is a Senior Editor at Trending Insurance News. Previously he has worked for Forbes and The Huffington Post. Steven is a graduate of Risk Management at the University of New York.