Motorists Facing Challenges in the Great Outdoors

December 20, 2004

The number of fatal vehicle- animal collisions, particularly with deer, is reportedly on the rise – a trend highlighting the heightened dangers of driving during the fall deer-mating season.

“Since the 1990s, vehicle-animal collisions have represented a rising percentage of all reported crashes on U.S. roads,” said Buzz Rodland, American International Automobile Dealers Association (AIADA) chairman. “Aside from the expensive vehicle repair costs, the increase in these types of crashes has created a greater risk for drivers and their passengers.”

During a review of 2003 vehicle-animal crashes, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that the number of fatalities resulting from vehicles colliding with animals rose 27 percent from 2002, reaching a total of 201 deaths. Of those 201 fatalities, 80 were occupants of passenger vehicles – 60 of whom were riding without a fastened safety belt.

“Although vehicle-animal collisions represent only a minor fraction of total automobile crashes annually, these types of collisions cost an average of $2,500 per vehicle, with damages ranging from shattered windshield glass to complete wreckage of the vehicle,” commented Rodland.

The IIHS estimates that of the roughly 1.5 million deer-vehicle crashes per year, total vehicle damage costs exceed $1.1 billion.

“Collisions with animals happen suddenly with little forewarning, but motorists can reduce the propensity for crashes by being alert and driving defensively,” added Rodland. “During early morning and evening feeding times, motorists should be particularly cognizant of wildlife crossing signs, with an eye out for animals that may be lingering on the side of the road.”

“In the case of deer, if you see one, slow down and expect that more will follow,” added Rodland.

State transportation departments are continuing efforts to combat the problem. A few key countermeasures already in place include: the use of repellents, roadside reflectors, and enhanced roadway lighting.

Despite these efforts, however, motorists should know how to react in case an animal jumps into the path of their vehicle.

“If a crash with an animal is unavoidable, do not swerve – use your brakes instead of your wheel. Slow down and remove your foot from the brake before impact,” said Rodland. “By doing so, you increase the chance that the animal will be pulled underneath the vehicle rather than passed through the windshield.”

For more information on ways to defend against a vehicle-animal collision, visit: .

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