Drivers are reminded of the higher risk for deer-related crashes in the fall and that insurance companies cannot add a surcharge to auto insurance premiums for such crashes, according to a joint release issued by Pa. Acting Insurance Commissioner Michael Humphreys, Pa. Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Secretary Yassmin Gramian, and Pa. State Police Commissioner Col. Robert Evanchick.
"Late fall and early winter is when drivers are most likely to have a deer-related crash, and dawn and dusk are peak times for deer activity," said Humphreys. "Auto collisions involving deer or other wildlife are considered a not-at-fault accident under Pennsylvania law, meaning insurers cannot raise your premiums or add a surcharge to your premium following a deer-related crash, but this exclusion does not apply if your car does not come in contact with the animal. Any damage to your vehicle from a deer-related accident will fall under a policy's comprehensive coverage."
State Farm estimates there were over 1.9 million animal collision insurance claims in the U.S. between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.
Pennsylvanians, according to State Farm, have a 1-in-57 chance of being involved in an animal-related crash, the sixth highest in the nation. PennDOT showed more than 5,700 deer-related crashes in 2021, up from almost 5,600 in 2020. The 2021 crashes resulted in 1,255 injuries and 13 fatalities.
"Drivers can help reduce the possibility of a deer-related crash by slowing down and using caution, particularly in areas where deer crossing signs are posted," said Gramian. "It's also important to educate young or inexperienced drivers on increased deer movement. Most importantly, your best defense in a crash is your seat belt. Always buckle up, every trip, every time."
Drivers should be aware of the following tips from the American Automobile Association (AAA) to help prevent a crash or to reduce the damage from a collision:
Stay alert and pay attention to road signs while driving. Areas with high levels of deer activity will often have yellow, diamond-shaped signs with an image of a deer.
Use high beams when there is no oncoming traffic. Generally, the light reflecting off their eyes will reveal their location and flicking your high beams will often cause the animal to scurry away.
Deer rarely travel alone; if one is seen, there are likely more, so slow down and watch for other deer to appear.
Swerving away from animals can confuse them so they don't know which way to run and can also put your car in the path of oncoming vehicles, so resist the urge to swerve. Instead, stay in your lane with both hands firmly on the wheel.
If the crash is imminent, drivers should remove their foot from the brake. During hard braking, the front end of a vehicle is pulled downward which can cause the animal to travel up over the hood toward the windshield. Letting off the brake can protect drivers from windshield strikes because the animal is more likely to be pushed to one side of the vehicle or over the top of the vehicle.
Always wear a seat belt. The chances of being injured when hitting an animal are much higher if the driver is not wearing a seatbelt.
"First and foremost, slow down. When you travel at a high speed, you reduce the time you have to identify the situation and respond to avoid the animal on the roadway," said Evanchick. "If you are one of the many drivers who hit a deer, don't panic. Immediately pull over to a safe area and assess the situation. If there are any injuries, your vehicle needs to be towed, or the roadway is blocked; contact 911 immediately."
In Pennsylvania, two types of crashes must be reported to police: crashes that result in a vehicle being damaged to the degree that it needs to be towed from a scene; and collisions that result in injury or death. Minor collisions that do not result in injury may be reported to police, but it is not legally required.
Drivers involved in any crash with another vehicle are required to exchange license and insurance information with involved parties and render aid when necessary, according to the release.
To report a dead deer for removal from state-maintained roads, call the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation at 1-800-FIX-ROAD.
Consumers with questions about auto insurance may contact the Insurance Department Consumer Services Bureau by calling 1-877-881-6388 or at www.insurance.pa.gov.