Most Car-Deer Crashes Occur in Late October through Mid-November

Five-Year Deer Collision Study Points the Way to Prevention

Erie, PA. - October 2004 - With an active deer population and more cars on the road, one insurance company is setting its sights on preventing deer-car collisions. And the good news is, it's working.

A five-year study by Erie Insurance Group shows the number of the company's policyholders involved in deer-vehicle collisions is holding steady. The average number of deer claims for 1,000 vehicles insured was 12 during 2003, the same as in 2002 and a drop from 2001.

"Erie Insurance is one of the few companies that analyze detailed data from deer-car collisions," says Darrin Birtciel, an actuarial analyst at Erie Insurance. "We've been reviewing data since 1999, focusing on how to reduce collisions and keep people safe. We look at frequency, location, severity and total costs."

By performing the study and giving policyholders tips on avoiding deer collisions, the company has seen an improvement in the frequency of deer collisions over the last couple of years. "Reducing the number of collisions not only prevents injuries and saves lives, it also keeps insurance rates affordable," says Birtciel.

Each year there are more than 1.5 million crashes in the United States involving deer, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. They cost an estimated $1.1 billion in vehicle damages, 150 lives are lost, and more than 10,000 injuries result.

At Erie Insurance, deer claims for 2003 accounted for nearly 40% of all comprehensive losses. Paid losses from deer claims totaled $60 million, up 12% from 2002, though the actual number of deer claims per thousand held steady. The average cost of a deer claim was $2,040.

The highest deer claim frequencies occurred along the New York/Pennsylvania border, the Catskills region of New York, and in central West Virginia, but the study saw an increase in other states. From 1999-2003, the frequency of deer claims for Erie Insurance has increased 40% in Indiana and 25% in Ohio.

Drivers should be alert for deer when driving anytime during the fall, but drivers should be extra cautious during the last week of October through mid-November, when mating season is in full swing. Deer are more active, resulting in a significant number of deer-vehicle crashes. In 2003, Erie Insurance recorded 20% of its deer claims during the three-week period from late October through Mid-November.

The peak times for deer-vehicle crashes are during dusk and dawn. About half of all deer claims occur between the hours of 5 p.m. and midnight. Another 20% of claims occur between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., Erie Insurance reports.

"Interestingly, our statistics show that customers who have a deer claim one year are three times more likely to have another deer claim the following year, so if you travel in an area frequented by deer, it's a good idea to use extra caution," says Birtciel.

Erie Insurance offers the following information and precautionary measures to help motorists avoid collisions with deer:

  • Stay alert, awake and sober. Always wear your seatbelt and drive at a safe, sensible speed for conditions. Deliberately watch for deer, particularly when driving during peak collision times.
  • Highest-risk periods are from sunset to midnight and the hours shortly before and after sunrise.
  • When driving at night, use high-beam headlights when there is no opposing traffic. The high beams will illuminate the eyes of deer on or near a roadway. Watch for the reflection of deer eyes and for deer silhouettes on the shoulder of the road. High-beam headlights will not necessarily frighten a deer, so do not rely on the high beams to deter deer, but rather rely on the lights to better illuminate the animal.
  • Deer are often unpredictable, especially when faced with glaring headlights, blowing horns and fast-moving vehicles. Sometimes they stop in the middle of the road when crossing or cross quickly and come back. Sometimes they move toward an approaching vehicle. Assume nothing, check your rear-view mirror for traffic, slow down and blow your horn to urge the deer to leave the road. If the deer stays on the road, stop, put on your hazard lights and wait for the deer to leave the roadway; do not try to go around the deer while it is on the road.
  • Deer frequently travel in groups and in single file. If you see one deer on or near the road, expect that others may follow.
  • Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path, but stay in your lane. Many serious crashes occur when drivers swerve to avoid a deer and hit another vehicle or lose control of their cars.
  • If you do strike a deer, and are uncertain whether or not the deer is dead, then keep your distance, as this is an injured, wild animal with sharp hooves that can inflict injuries. If the deer is blocking the roadway and poses a danger to other motorists, you should report the incident to the Game Commission or a local law enforcement agency.

Each year 10,000 people are injured in crashes when drivers slow down or swerve to avoid hitting animals, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control. Their analysis of non-fatal motor vehicle crashes involving animals showed 54% of injuries resulted from a direct collision, and 45% were the result of swerving.

Don't count on a deer whistle to scare the deer away. According to a 2003 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, deer whistles are ineffective in reducing the number of deer-vehicle collisions. The only proven method is properly designed and maintained fencing. Other methods that show promise are roadside clearing and infrared driver vision technology.

Known for competitive rates and superior service, Erie Insurance Group is a leading property/casualty insurer in the United States. With more than 3.8 million policies in force, Erie Insurance Group includes seven companies operating in 11 states and the District of Columbia and is rated A+ (superior) by A.M. Best Company. Erie Indemnity Company (Nasdaq: ERIE) is the management company for Erie Insurance Group. Headquartered in Erie, Pa., since 1925, the ERIE provides auto, home, business and life insurance through more than 7,400 independent agents representing nearly 1,800 agencies. Erie Insurance Group ranks No. 368 among the FORTUNE 500 and is included in FORBES "Platinum 400" list of America's best-managed companies. For more information and a listing of independent agents representing The ERIE in your community, visit the company's Web site at

Contact Info

Mark Dombrowski, Corporate Communications
1-800-458-0811 ext. 2285 or 814/870-2285

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