Average Animal Strike in Virginia Costs More than $5,500
This is the time of year when drivers are most likely to strike a deer, which can be both dangerous and now, significantly more expensive than in years past. October through December marks deer-mating season, so the animals are more active and therefore, more likely to dart into the roadway, increasing the risk of a costly and potentially deadly collision.
While the vast majority of deer strikes do not involve serious injury, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in the 10-year period from 2012-2021, almost 2,000 people were killed in crashes involving deer, including 35 here in Virginia.
With that in mind, AAA is encouraging drivers to stay focused and look out for deer, especially during the morning and evening hours when the distracted animals are most active and most likely to intersect with commuters.
“Safety is priority one, so first and foremost, we are encouraging drivers to adjust their driving behaviors to prevent a deer collision,” says Morgan Dean, spokesperson AAA Mid-Atlantic in Virginia. “They may also want to adjust their insurance coverage because even a minor collision will likely be a major expense.”
New Vehicle Technology Driving Up Cost of Repairs
Insurance Agency at AAA statistics indicate that across Virginia, the average claim for an animal strike in 2022 was more than $5,500 – up 40% in just five years.
While there are multiple factors at play, the sharp increase is due, in large part, to new vehicle technology including cameras and sensors that may be in the windshield, bumper or rearview mirrors, driving up the cost of repairs. Lingering supply chain issues are also an issue.
“Deer can be unpredictable, so even the best drivers are at risk,” says Rebecca Schafer, Senior Insurance Agent with AAA Club Alliance. “In addition to your vehicle damage, the cost of repairs may put a serious dent in your wallet if you don’t have a comprehensive insurance policy with adequate coverage.”
Virginia Deer Collisions
In 2022, Virginia saw 6,135 deer-related crashes, killing four people and injuring 568 others. According to DMV data, deer strikes spiked last year in October, November, and December, with crashes those three months making up 53% of all deer-related crashes for the year. Virginia saw a seven percent increase in crashes and an 11 percent increase in injuries compared to 2021.
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Deer-Related Crash Data 2022
Source: DMV TREDS
With 308 incidents, Loudoun County in Northern Virginia saw the most deer-related crashes of any locality in Virginia in 2022. Montgomery County in Southwest Virginia was second with 255 crashes. Virginia’s four fatal deer related crashes last year happened in Isle of Wight, Montgomery, Northampton and Prince George counties.
|Top Virginia Localities for Deer Strikes in 2022||Number of Deer Related Crashes|
|1. Loudoun County||308|
|2. Montgomery County||255|
|3. Fauquier County||243|
|4. Augusta County||197|
|5. Chesterfield County||174|
|6. Botetourt County||142|
|7. Rockingham County||135|
|8. Albemarle County||133|
|9. Prince William County||127|
|10. Hanover County||125|
Source: DMV TREDS
AAA Tips to Avoid an Animal Collision
- Keep your eyes moving back and forth: Continuously sweep your eyes across the road for signs of animals. While the most likely accident is caused by an animal darting in front of you, one might also run into the side of your car.
- Be especially attentive in early morning and evening: Many animals, especially deer, are most active during prime commuting hours – roughly 5-8 a.m. and 5-8 p.m.
- At night, use high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic: Your brights can help you spot animals sooner. The light reflecting off their eyes may also reveal their location.
- Slow down and watch for other deer to appear: Deer rarely travel alone, so if you see one, there are likely to be one or more nearby.
- Honk your horn with one long blast: A long blast on your horn may frighten large animals, such as deer, away from your vehicle. The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) advises against relying on devices such as deer whistles and reflectors, which have not been proven to reduce collisions with animals.
- Use brakes if impact is imminent: If an animal is in your path, stay in your lane. Swerving away from animals can confuse them so they don’t know which way to run. It can also put you in the path of oncoming vehicles or cause you to crash into objects on the side of the road.
- Always wear a seatbelt: According to the Insurance Information Institute, the chances of getting injured when hitting an animal are much higher if you don’t have your seatbelt on.
In the event of a collision with an animal, Insurance at AAA recommends:
- If possible, immediately move the vehicle to a safe location out of the roadway. Your safety and the safety of your passengers are most important.
- Once you are in a safe location and no longer driving, call the police.
- Put the vehicle’s hazard lights on, whether it is light or dark outside.
- Avoid making contact with the deer/animal. A frightened or wounded animal can hurt you or further injure itself.
- Contact your insurance company as quickly as possible to report any damage to your car.
- Take photos of the damage if you can do so safely and without entering the roadway.