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Avoid car-deer collisions with defensive driving habits

Madison, Wis. (Oct. 16, 2013) - This time of year, motorists in many states are more likely to encounter deer on streets and highways. Hundreds of thousands of animal-vehicle crashes occur each year, the majority with deer. This results in millions of dollars of damages, injuries and in some cases, even death.

Sometimes these accidents are unavoidable, particularly during the fall and early winter months when deer are active and breeding. Attentive drivers can take several simple precautions to reduce the likelihood of these encounters resulting in a traffic accident.

American Family customers in the company's 19 operating states submitted 40,387 claims for animal-vehicle crashes from Aug. 1, 2012 to Aug. 1, 2013, totaling nearly $92 million, with the average claim costing $2,271. Wisconsin ($27 million), Missouri ($15.9 million) and Minnesota ($12.5 million) reported the highest numbers (see chart below for statistics on the top 12 states among the 19 states in which American Family operates).

Here are some defensive driving tips to help avoid deer-vehicle accidents:

  • Fasten your seatbelt. It's simple common sense and the best defense in the event a crash is unavoidable.
  • Pay attention to deer-crossing signs.
  • Be especially alert at dawn and dusk. These are the times deer are most active.
  • If you see one deer, expect more to follow. Deer typically travel in single file.
  • If you see a deer on the road, brake firmly and blow your horn.
  • If a crash is unavoidable, don't swerve! Studies show the most serious crashes occur when motorists swerve to avoid a deer and hit another vehicle or object, or roll over.

One preventative measure you might hear about is the use of deer whistles. Deer whistles produce ultrasonic noise when the vehicle they are attached to exceeds 30 mph. The idea is the deer will be warned upon hearing the noise. It's unclear whether deer hear the noise, but regardless, studies show the whistles have no effect on deer behavior, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

If you do strike a deer, contact the authorities. You may be legally required to report an accident with significant vehicle damage, depending on state laws. Also contact your insurance company to report your claim. Collision with an animal is covered under the comprehensive section of your auto insurance policy. Since comprehensive coverage is optional, be sure to check your auto insurance policy for specific coverages.

American Family claims for animal hits from Aug. 1 2012 - Aug. 1, 2013*

Ranked by number of claims


Number of Claims

Cost of Claims




























South Dakota






North Dakota



Average cost per claim $2,271

*Top 12 states

Janet Masters
American Family Insurance
(608) 242-4100, ext. 30409

Based in Madison, Wis., American Family Insurance offers business insurance in 19 states. American Family Mutual Insurance Company is the nation's third-largest mutual property/casualty insurance company. Web:; Facebook:; Twitter: Google+