• Oct 30th 2008 at 5:29PM
  • 27
If you plan on driving in November, and who doesn't, keep an eye out for wildlife. It's likely due to amorous quadrupeds wandering around looking for companionship at the peak of the deer mating season, but you're three times more likely to find a large furry thing in your path of travel during November than any other time of the year, and it's getting worse. The Highway Loss Data Institute has been tracking insurance claims for animal strikes, and incidents have risen 14.9 percent in the last five years.
Breeding season collisions have been getting more prevalent, perhaps due to urban sprawl cutting into animal habitats. Animal versus motorcycle incidents rise in the summer months, mainly because riding two-wheelers is more common. Most of the time, these accidents aren't fatal to people, unless they're asking for it by ignoring seatbelts or insisting that helmets are for sissies. Rural areas, where speeds are higher, tend to have the roads you want to watch out for, especially when it's dark.

Peace of mind can be had for a price. Vehicles from Scandinavian countries must pass the "moose test," which means the car is more resistant to folding up like some kind of metallic origami when encountering large livestock. Vigilance behind the wheel of something like a Saab Turbo X Sport Combi doesn't sound like a bad way to finish out Autumn, now does it?



ARLINGTON, VA - November is the peak month for vehicle-deer collisions, and a new analysis of insurance claims and federal crash data indicate the problem is growing. The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), recently examined insurance claims for animal strikes under comprehensive coverage month by month from January 2005 through April 2008. The main finding is that insurance claims for animal collisions are nearly 3 times higher during November than the typical month earlier in the year. For example, for every 1,000 insured vehicles 14 claims were filed in November 2007 compared with an aver- age of 5 claims per 1,000 during January-September. Insurance claims usually don't specify the animal involved, but other data show that deer are the main ones.

"Urban sprawl means suburbia and deer habitat intersect in many parts of the coun- try," says Kim Hazelbaker, HLDI senior vice president. "If you're driving in areas where deer are prevalent, the caution flag is out, especially in November."

State Farm, the nation's largest auto insurer, estimates that there were more than 1.2 million claims for damage in crashes with animals during the last half of 2007 and the first half of 2008. The company says animal strike claims have increased 14.9 percent over the past 5 years.

Most vehicle-animal collisions aren't severe enough to injure people, but data from the federal government show that crash deaths are increasing. In 1993, 101 people died in crashes involving animals. By 2000, the number was 150, and in 2007 it was 223.

The states with the largest number of total deaths are Texas with 227 deaths during 1993- 2007, Wisconsin with 123, and Pennsylvania with 112 (see attached table of state-by-state deaths in crashes with animals).

Analyzing monthly data on fatal crashes of passenger vehicles and animals during the past 3 years, IIHS researchers found patterns similar to those reported by HLDI. Depending on the year, the crash deaths occurred most fre- quently in October or November.

"The months with the most crash deaths coincide with fall breeding season," Anne McCartt, IIHS's senior vice president for research, points out. "Crashes in which people are killed are most likely to occur in rural areas and on roads with speed limits of 55 mph or higher. They're also more likely to occur in darkness, at dusk, or at dawn."

When motorcycles are included, there's another peak in crashes in the summer when motorcycling is more common. Riders typically make up about half of the deaths in vehicle-animal crashes each year, even though registrations of cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks outnumber motorcycles on the road 40 to 1.

Safety belt use is a major factor. IIHS research from 2005 examined 147 police reports on vehicle-animal collisions in which there was a human fatality in 9 states during 2000-02. Deer were struck in 3 out of 4 of these crashes, but collisions with other animals such as cattle, horses, dogs, and a bear also led to deaths.

Most of the crash deaths occurred after a motor vehicle had struck an animal and then run off the road or a motorcyclist had fallen off a bike. Many of these deaths wouldn't have occurred with appropriate protection. The study found that 60 percent of the people killed riding in vehicles weren't using safety belts, and 65 percent of those killed riding on motorcycles weren't wearing helmets.

"A majority of the people killed in these crashes weren't killed by contact with the animal," McCartt says. "As with other kinds of crashes, safety belts and motorcycle helmets could have prevented many of the deaths."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Solution: Just get what our friends down-under call a "Roo-Bar."

      When I was down there I saw how effective (and destructive) they were against Kangaroos, which are very dangerous when struck and cause thousands of dollars worth of damage.

      The only downside to this is that they inspire you to try testing their "effectiveness"
      • 6 Years Ago
      When I worked at Chrysler, we had a "game" test to verify the airbag sensors for a deer sized animal. Basically a punching bag with foam legs into the bumper at 20MPH.

      More vehicles + less woods = Bambi impacts

      Hunters, get out there and thin the herds out!

        • 6 Years Ago
        I live in the heart of this problem, there are herds of 5-10 deer walking through my yard literally every day. Dead ones litter the sides of the roads.

        It's illegal for me to shoot them myself. The animal rights activists prevent the county from doing anything effective about them either. In the past, the county has contracted to have the herds in the public parks thinned - and were forced to stop announcing the date because animal rights terrorists were putting caltrops out on the roads.

        Driving two counties away where I am permitted to shoot them is all well and good, and good eating besides, but killing deer in the sticks where they're shot pretty thin to begin with doesn't do anything for the suburban deer problem.

        In addition to the auto accidents, the deer are crawling with ticks which spread Lyme disease.

        Public health doesn't get the respect it deserves.

      • 6 Years Ago
      I had a near miss with a deer that looked like a small horse this morning.
      Seems here in nj it's getting worse and worse.
      They need to extend rifle hunting season, because all my bonehead friends that hunt with bow and arrows never hit anything.
      • 6 Years Ago
      'moose test' is irrelevant. NO vehicle will pass it...the 'test' just measures the level of damage a massive roll of rubber stakes will do..hopefully the moose/elk dummy will roll over the top of the car rather than go through the windshield. The test, 'elk test', used a dummy the Swedes called 'mooses'.
      For the record, the 'moose test' was originally an evasive maneuver to test the agility of the car in EVADING a moose or elk without rolling over...Mercedes A-class failed one and had to implement an electronic stability control.

      Yup...time to thin the herd...again. Where's my silenced .40 S&W....
      • 6 Years Ago
      You guys could hunt the animals to death but you'd end up with Europe, a very sterile continent with the largest wild mammal being a hedgehog.

      I liked having coyotes and deer in my backyard in the US.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Maybe the problem is HUMAN OVERPOPULATION which creates urban sprawl etc.etc.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Maybe sterilize the wild deer so that they do not breed any further. Seems more humane than killing them.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I would rather be dead than sterile though, but maybe wild animals feel different...
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hunters frequently say that more deer collisions point to the need to hunt more. Has anybody considered that the hunters chase the animals to the road areas? It's just anecdotal, but I see lots more deer carcasses in Michigan where hunting is big than I do in other states with lots of deer, like Ohio and Minnesota. And hunting is what decimated the deer's predators to begin with. I can't believe bear baiting is legal in Michigan. Talk about cruel.

      I drive a Saab, so I feel safer. One thing I do is to use my high beams when there is no traffic in front of me. Animal eyes reflect very well in the light.

        • 6 Years Ago
        "It's just anecdotal, but I see lots more deer carcasses in Michigan where hunting is big than I do in other states with lots of deer, like Ohio and Minnesota."

        Well it's an interesting idea, but with the news stories about increased deer populations after hunting restrictions and deer becoming suburban pests, the idea that hunters are scaring them onto the roads more seems unlikely.

        "And hunting is what decimated the deer's predators to begin with."

        OK, but, so what?

        "I can't believe bear baiting is legal in Michigan. Talk about cruel."

        I agree.
        • 6 Years Ago

        Very stupid response. I'm not surprised at all.

        My point is to show that the assumed solution isn't necessarily the answer and that the problem isn't always what it appears to be. Can you prove that what I theorize is wrong?

        I'm going to have 10 kids. We need people who support intelligent policies and compassion instead of mean-spirited divisive idiots who react based on emotion instead of logic.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Isn't the Moose Test to see if the car will topple if the driver swerves hard to avoid a moose or other large game? (I'm not too sure, though, but that's what I seem to remember)

      And those of you who say we should hunt more, maybe humans brought this upon ourselves by taking up what used to be the animals' habitat...
        • 6 Years Ago
        @Mobius..."And those of you who say we should hunt more, maybe humans brought this upon ourselves by taking up what used to be the animals' habitat..."

        Another "logical" solution to the deer population?

        We should all abandon the United States and return to our ancestor's native countries! Only native americans should be allowed to remain. After all, the ENTIRE COUNTRY was once the domain of one species of wild animal or another.

        You first. How about taking LA, New York, Chicago, Miami, Boston, Philadelphia, and thier economies with you!!!
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yes, the "moose test" was the test that the small Mercedes-Benz A-Class famously failed a few years ago.. That caused ESP to be added to the car.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I love this response system. The above comment was intended to go under UH2L's post.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This must be due to increasing numbers of deer, elk, antelope, moose, wildebeast, and possums talking on their mobile phones and not paying attention when crossing the road.
        • 6 Years Ago
        well personally, i have been trying to hit more animals while driving
      • 6 Years Ago
      My deer hit count stands at 5, just not enough hunting going on.
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