Steering Clear of Deer
The soaring population of deer in our northwest corner of the state is leaving its mark on the auto insurance industry. The increase in the deer population can in part be blamed on the protected habitat of the property surrounding the Scituate Reservoir, a short hunting season, and the development of new roads, homes and buildings infringing on their habitat. Annually a distinct surge in deer vs. auto collisions occurs between September and February. That surge is tied to their search for a food supply, erratic mating season rituals, and the panic from being chased by hunters. The deer’s impact on you can be dramatic.
Animals, especially deer, are a factor in many traffic accidents. Striking them, even at slow speeds, commonly results in thousands of dollars in damage. More than a few times each year local rescues transport injured vehicle occupants to area hospitals from deer strike accidents. Through the years there have even been a few local fatalities caused by deer strikes, or from a driver who mysteriously swerved into the woods likely avoiding contact with a deer.
I experienced first-hand the trauma associated with striking a deer by the RI State Police Headquarters. As a frequent driver of Danielson Pike, I should have anticipated the deer crossing to access food on the Esek Hopkins field. A deer jumped over a stone wall by the old National Guard building into my path of travel. It was both hunting, mating season, and was dusk. Even at 35 mph I had no time to stop. The left front corner of my car hit her hind quarter. It resulted in about $7,000 worth of repairs and a few weeks driving a rental car before I was able to get that car back …less my deductible.
When you have damage done to your car, there are 2 separate and distinct coverage’s that apply. “Collision” coverage responds when you “collide” with something such as another car, a tree, or telephone pole. It does not apply to damage from hitting an animal. “Comprehensive” coverage (also known as “all other coverage”) applies to glass damage, theft of your car, a car fire, for vandalism (like when someone keys the side of your car or slits your tires), when you hit an animal. You must have comprehensive coverage for your insurance company to respond when you strike a deer.
Both comprehensive and collision coverage’s are sold with a deductible. That is the portion of each loss that you are responsible to pay. Today it is commonly set at $500 but can be as low as $100 and as high as $2500. The premium you pay for that coverage will reflect how much of the risk you are willing to assume.
The National Safety Council and publications from Trusted Choice Independent Insurance Agents offer the following recommendations to help you avoid a deer strike:
**Drive cautiously during early evening (dusk) and early morning (dawn) when deer are active. Pay particular attention to areas with signs warning of “Deer Crossing”.
**If you see a deer in the area of the road, slow down and watch for other deer. Deer seldom travel alone. Watch their movement. A buck may even charge your car assuming you are entering his mating territory. Consider sounding your horn to scare it away.
**Deer tend to fixate on your headlamps. A deer in the roadway may freeze or even head toward your lights, so flashing your high beams is not a wise practice.
**While research is inconclusive, auditory deterrents (commonly known as Deer Whistles) produce a shrill sound that is unnoticed by the human ear. When properly mounted to the front grill of a car and travelling at 30 mph or more, the whistles produce an irritating sound prompting the deer to flee. These whistles cost $6-12 and are available in many sporting goods and hardware stores.
**If driving on an interstate highway you are not immune to striking deer. Highways built in rural or suburban areas often have wooded areas to buffer the residences from the highway traffic noise. That buffer serves as a desirable habit for the deer population. The high speeds traveled on highways leave you little time to react to their sudden appearance.
**If you hit a deer and it is alive, approaching it may be dangerous; don’t touch it. A dazed or unconscious deer may respond to your presence by charging you. Call the state or local police to report the accident.