Bloomington, IL,
08:12 AM

Herd Mentality

Avoiding animal collisions.

Every year thousands of animals collide with or fly into vehicles.

It’s not an unusual occurrence, especially in October, November, and December. New data shows U.S. drivers on the average have a 1 in 116 chance of a collision with an animal, according to the State Farm® annual study. The company estimates there were over 1.9 million animal collision insurance claims in the U.S. between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019.

In one year, a 2016 study in rural southwest Virginia recorded 1,837cases of road kill including 1,415 mammals, 188 birds, 105 reptiles, 122 domestic animals and seven frogs. Overall, 64 different species were counted.

On the opposite side of the country, a similar study of animal collisions in Colorado in 2017 counted 1,242 animals killed on roads near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Mule deer were the most frequent victims; however, the study showed porcupines, owls, badgers and even a weasel were killed on highways in the area.

Officials use these types of studies to see if traffic diversions such as culverts or bridges over the most common areas where the animals were killed attempting to cross roads can help avoid collisions with vehicles.

Collisions with animals tend to occur more in the fall, according to the annual study of animal collisions by State Farm.

“Claims after collisions with an animal range from small dents to totaled vehicles and injured drivers and passengers,” says Michael Braaten, director, Enterprise Research. “By sharing ways to help drivers be aware of the increased dangers this time of year including inclement weather, shorter periods of daylight and students driving home after evening activities State Farm hopes to help decrease the number of collisions and injuries.”

Avoiding Close Encounters of the Furry Kind

No matter what animals inhabit your area, there are certain precautions to take while driving to lower the chance of colliding with one or several creatures.

  • Stay Alert. Pay attention to "deer crossing" and other signs and be cautious in areas near woods or water.

  • Use High Beams. Flicking your high beams on a deer in the road may cause the animal to scurry away. High beams also help illuminate dark roads.

  • Don't Swerve. If an animal-car crash is inevitable, maintain control of your vehicle and don't veer off the road.

  • Brake as Necessary. If you can avoid hitting the animal, reduce your speed, honk your horn, and tap your brakes to warn other drivers. If there are no drivers behind you, brake hard.

  • Remember Peak Season. Deer crashes happen most during October through December, which is hunting and mating season. Collisions are most likely to happen in West Virginia, Montana, Pennsylvania and South Dakota.

  • Remember Meal Time. Watch for animals in the road between dusk and dawn.

  • Watch for Herds. If you see one deer, there are probably more nearby.

  • Don't Use a Whistle. No scientific evidence supports that car-mounted deer whistles work.

  • Wear Seat Belts. Always obey speed limits and wear seat belts.