Brace yourselves, Kentucky drivers; the annual three-month increase in roadway encounters, and unfortunate collisions, with white-tailed deer is once again upon us.
Deer can certainly be spotted around Kentucky any time of year, but for the next three months their activity – and likelihood of becoming a costly, if not deadly, roadway hazard – increases dramatically. According to Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) Insurance Company claims data, drivers across the Commonwealth are anywhere from two to seven times as likely to collide with a deer on the road in November as they are during the first nine months of the year.
Beyond being a nuisance, the cost of these deer collision accidents is also quite significant. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimated that each year white-tailed deer across the nation cause car accidents responsible for tens of thousands of injuries and the deaths of approximately 200 Americans. Those collisions also carry the hefty price tag of $4.6 billion in insurance claims annually.
Regionalizing those numbers, Kentucky State Police (KSP) data reports that Kentuckians were in a total of 3,092 automobile collisions with deer in 2014 (128 more than in 2013). Those accidents resulted in 62 injuries (nine fewer injuries from the year prior) and three deaths (zero deaths reported in 2013). However, KFB Insurance claims data very much supports the trend of clearly defined seasonal peaks for these collisions. Approximately $23.4 million in deer collision claims were filed with KFB in all of 2014, but nearly 43% of those claims resulted from accidents occurring during October, November and December.
Further analysis of KFB Insurance claims data shows automobiles collided with deer on Kentucky roadways at a clip of 28.17 deer per 1,000 drivers during the month of November last year, well outpacing the national average of 15.0. As a result of those collisions, KFB Insurance customers filed more than $5 million in claims during that month alone. Overall, Kentucky is ranked as the fourth highest state in the country by IIHS for animal collision claims during this peak season.
“We talk a lot about numbers this time of year to help us quantify and understand the issue, but make no mistake about it – we are dealing with real people and real injuries,” said Greg Kosse, spokesperson for KFB Mutual Insurance Company. “Any kind of car accident is traumatizing. Finding ways to make Kentuckians more alert about a predictable occurrence and, hopefully, reduce the frequency of these collisions is one of our highest goals each fall.”
Vehicular collisions with deer increase during this time of year in conjunction with the annual peak season for deer mating. Deer are also naturally migrating in the fall, and urban sprawl has introduced many new roads into the natural habitats of these animals. Kentucky’s simultaneously exploding deer population only expands the opportunity for these accidents to occur. Consequently, deer are seen and struck on the roadways during the last three months of the year almost more often than all the other nine months combined.
Now that this seasonal jump in deer activity is here, drivers should take the time to be aware of their surroundings even more than usual. KFB advises motorists to drive defensively on the roadways this fall, especially when headed through wooded areas where deer are likely to be seen.
Tips to help drivers avoid deer collisions:
Watch for deer crossing signs. These signs are posted to alert drivers that certain stretches of the road are commonly populated with deer – do not ignore the warning.
Be aware of the time. Deer are most commonly seen along roadways in the early morning and evening hours. Exercise additional caution if traveling during these times of day.
When driving after dark, use high-beam headlights to increase the range of vision.
If a deer is spotted on or near the road, slow down immediately.
Don’t swerve if a deer is in the road. Brake firmly but keep the vehicle headed in a straight line. A swerving vehicle can confuse the animal and prevent it from picking a direction to flee, or, worse yet, the driver could lose control and hit a tree or another car.
Always wear a seat belt. The Kentucky State Police reports that most people injured or killed in automobile collisions with deer are not wearing seat belts.