Deer Collision Claims

Autumn rut costs drivers deer

30 September 2009

The AA has warned drivers to be alert to a serious hazard that peaks during October and could cost unwary drivers over £1,400: deer strikes.

October sees a peak in deer collision claims as the autumn 'rut' takes place, when some species of deer are on the move to their breeding areas.

According to AA Car Insurance, the average claim payout for a deer strike is £1,403. Last year there were at least 42,5001 reported deer strikes – costing insurers over £59 million2. Some estimates suggest there are as many as 74,000 strikes annually, many unreported.

The most likely time for deer encounters is around dawn and dusk. And, with evenings drawing in, the movement of deer is increasingly likely to coincide with rush-hour traffic.

hazard warning sign seen in places where deer are most likely Says Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance: "Deer are an often-unseen hazard until it's too late. As darkness falls collisions happen with little or no warning as the animals may literally leap out of woodland into the road. But places where deer are most likely to be seen are indicated by triangular hazard warning signs showing an image of a deer.

"At 60 miles per hour, hitting a deer is serious – not just for the animal but car occupants as well. A natural reaction is to try to avoid the collision but as a result, drivers may miss the deer and hit other vehicles or trees which could be even worse.

"That high cost tells its own tale," Douglas adds. "Cars can easily be written off in a collision with a deer and car occupants are often injured. Not only that, an increase in premium is likely to follow as some or all of any no-claim bonus will be lost, unless it's protected."

Although the October rut brings one of the highest insurance claim peaks, deer strikes are a year-round problem.

There are 1.5 million deer in the UK and populations are rising. Wildlife scientist Professor David Macdonald pointed out at the recent launch of the national DeerAware3 campaign, drivers should be particularly alert in autumn and spring and dawn and dusk, adding that this will be: "beneficial not only for deer but for people too."

Advice

AA Insurance and the Highways Agency advise drivers:

  • Check speed and be alert at dawn and dusk and especially where you see deer warning signs
  • If you see a deer in the road, dip your lights and slow right down and stop if necessary – use hazard warning lights to warn other road users
  • Greenish reflections near the roadside may be the eyes of deer reflecting headlights – if you see them slow down immediately
  • If you see one deer cross the road, several others are likely to follow
  • Try to avoid swerving – hitting a tree or an oncoming car could be worse than hitting the deer
  • If you hit a deer or witness a collision, call 999 especially if people are hurt or if the collision is causing a hazard
  • Don't approach an injured deer – it could be dangerous
  • Call the RSPCA 24-hour advice line if a deer is injured – 0300 1234 999. (In Scotland call the Scottish SPCA – 03000 999 999)

AA Insurance claims statistics

AA Car Insurance statistics (based on 600 claims) show that although there is a seasonal pattern, last year the lowest months for claims (February, August and September) were only around half the highest month (October).

Around 6 per cent of all claims involve missing the deer and hitting either other vehicles or most commonly, trees.

A further 1 per cent involved hitting a deer and something else while several claims involved hitting a deer that was already lying in the road following an earlier collision.

Says Douglas: "Make no mistake, hitting a deer is damaging and distressing – especially if the animal is badly injured and in obvious pain. Hitting any deer at speed will cause serious damage to a car. Your best defence is to keep your eyes peeled and keep your speed in check."

Factfile

1Last year there between 42,500 and 74,000 deer strikes (Source: Deer Initiative, Highways Agency)

2At £1,403 cost per claim this amounts to between £59m and £103.8m. Many deer strikes go unreported and in such cases insurance claims are less likely.

3Deer Aware is a campaign of the Deer Initiative, which is a partnership of several organisations including Highways Agency, National Trust, RSPCA, British Deer Society, Forestry Commission, The AA and others.

There are six species of deer in the UK. The smallest is the Muntjac, growing up to the size of a Labrador dog while the Red deer is Britain's largest wild land mammal and can be the size of a horse.

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10 November 2009