Rudolph worries: Active deer cause more accidents

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 10, 2005

It's that time of year again. It's time to put up that evergreen tree for the holidays and spend, spend, spend.

It's also that time to be more of a defensive driver not because of the increased traffic on the roadways during the holiday season, but because of deer on the move. And with more active deer, come more accidents, said Dale May, who is a Greenville State Farm Insurance agent.

&#8220When (deer) get stirred up during the season and when it gets cold, you do start to see more accidents,” May said. &#8220It always picks up this time of year, especially when it gets colder. Š It's definitely that time of year.”

While accidents are inevitable in the state, statistics show that the frequency of accidents with deer within the state are dropping.

Claims made just through State Farm with the state have been cut in half, said State Farm spokesman Rich Pinkston.

There were 4,450 accident claims involving deer from July 1, 2003, through June 30, 2004. During the same timespan in '04 and 05, there were only 2,981 claims.

Pinkston said that the claims do increase at this time of year.

&#8220There is a spike during the fall and winter months,” he said. &#8220I would say that there are more accident claims from October through December than the remainder of the year. And, typically, the accidents happen around dusk or dawn, when (deer) are on the move to graze.”

Typically, there are more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle accidents each year throughout the United States that result in $1.1 billion in vehicle damage, according to a release from State Farm. Pinkston said that an average claim just on body damage was $2,500 per vehicle.

Pennsylvania had the highest number of claims in the U.S. through State Farm last year with 17,824. Alabama ranked 18th in the nation with 2,981 claims.

The number of claims actually is higher than the total number of accidents involving animals in the state, according to statistics released by the Alabama Department of Public Safety. Last year, there were 2,510 reported accidents involving animals. Easily more than half of those accidents involved deer, said Doris Teague, a spokeswoman with the Alabama Department of Public Safety.

Michigan was second on State Farm's list with 14, 541 accident claims. Alabama's neighboring state, Georgia, ranked fifth on State Farm's list with 9,301 claims.

So how do you avoid collisions with deer?

There is no simple solution, Pinkston said.

&#8220The best advice I can give is to be attentive and scan the roadways,” he said.

Accidents involving deer claim more than 150 lives each year, according to a report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Last year four people died in Alabama in animal-related collisions.

Teague said that Alabama's Department of Public Safety does not keep statistics of accidents just involving deer.

&#8220It's definitely that time of year,” May added. &#8220Just two months ago I had a customer hit a deer that totaled his truck. It can happen at anytime.”