Deer Collision Costs on the Rise

Drivers beware: Whether operating a company or personal vehicle, it’s that time of the year again—mating season for deer, causing them to be more active and more than doubling the likelihood of a collision through December. What’s more, State Farm reports that the national per claim average—from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017—rose to $4,179 from $3,995 during 2015-16.

State Farm warns that, “Whether you hit a large animal, or it jumps into the side of your vehicle, such collisions can cause significant injuries and property damage.” Although more prevalent in some states than others, drivers everywhere need to be alert and focused on the road.

In its 15th annual deer claim study, State Farm ranks states by a driver’s likelihood to hit a large animal such as deer, elk, moose or caribou. According to the study, while West Virginia continues to lead the nation, the state saw a 4.7% decrease from 2016, with one out of every 43 drivers likely to hit a deer or other large animal.

There were also some increases among the top 10 states over last year’s study. Montana drivers have a one in 57 chance of a collision—a 1.8% increase; and Pennsylvania drivers have a one in 63 chance of a crash, a 6.3% increase.

The top 10 states where a driver was most likely to have a large animal insurance claim remain fairly consistent, State Farm said. Wisconsin moved into the top five, swapping positions with South Dakota. Wyoming moved into the top 10 at number eight. North Dakota moved up to number 10 and South Carolina is no longer in the top 10. Thirteen states had no change in ranking.

The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) offers these tips for drivers:

• Buckle up. Seat belts save lives and help prevent injuries.

• Time of day is critical. Deer are generally more active during dawn and dusk hours, so pay attention to your surroundings and stay alert.

• Avoid distracted driving. Put the phone down, and never text while driving.

• Have a plan for roadside assistance. If an accident occurs, have the phone number for your insurer or roadside assistance ready. Some towing companies take advantage of drivers after an accident and you could find yourself facing excessive fees or complications recovering your car from the tow yard.

• Update your proof of insurance. Replace any expired insurance identification cards in the event you need to prove you have insurance after an accident. Although having a hard copy is best, don’t panic if you have misplaced yours—37 states have enacted laws that allow you to show proof of coverage on your smartphone. Find out if your insurer offers this feature.

• Watch for road signs that alert you to areas that are populated with more deer.

• Stay in your lane. If you see a deer, brake firmly but do not cross the center lane into potentially on-coming traffic.

If you do have a collision, State Farm recommends that you:

• Move your vehicle to the side of the road, if possible, and turn on your hazard lights. If you must leave your vehicle, stay off the road and out of the way of oncoming traffic. Deer are most active at dusk and dawn—times when you or your vehicle may be less visible to other motorists.

• Call the police. Alert authorities if the deer is blocking traffic and creating a threat for other drivers. If the collision results in injury or property damage, you may need to fill out an official report—this report also can prove useful when filing your insurance claim.

• Document the incident. If it’s safe to do so, photograph the roadway, your surroundings, damage to your vehicle, and any injuries you or your passengers sustained. If witnesses stop, take down their account of what occurred, and ask for their contact information.

• Stay away from the animal. A frightened, wounded deer could cause harm with its powerful legs and sharp hooves.

Lessons from Distracted Driving Awareness Month

June is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and while it is quickly drawing to a close, the message remains: Distracted driving is escalating, with 25% more vehicle accidents resulting from drivers talking or texting on cellphones. More cars on the road, especially during summer months, also translates to more accidents.

Organizations with fleets should take note as motor vehicle crashes are the number-one cause of work-related deaths, accounting for 24% of all fatal occupational injuries, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). On-the-job crashes are also costly, with employers sustaining costs of more than $24,500 per property damage crash and $150,000 per injury crash.

Zurich sums up NSC statistics:
Employers can and are being held liable for damages resulting from employee accidents. “We might expect an employer to be held liable for a crash involving a commercial driver’s license holder who was talking on a cell phone with dispatch about a work-related run at the time of an incident—especially if the employer had processes or a workplace culture that made drivers feel compelled to use cell phones while driving,” the NSC said.

The lines believed to exist between employment-related and personal or private life get blurred in some cases involving:

  • Cell phones owned by employees as well as employer-provided equipment
  • Vehicles that were employee-owned as well as employer-owned or leased
  • Situations where employees were driving during non-working hours or were engaged in personal phone calls

To protect themselves and their employees, the NSC recommended that organizations implement and enforce a total ban policy.

“The best practice is to prohibit all employees from using any cell phone device while driving in any vehicle during work hours or for work-related purposes. Regarding off-the-job hours, precedent has been set by lawsuits. Thus employers may want to extend their policies to cover off-the-job use of company-provided wireless devices, use of personally-owned devices that are reimbursed by the company, and use of devices in company-provided vehicles. All work-related cell phone use while driving should be banned 24/7,” the NSA advised.

Companies should also pay attention to other common distractions that can lead to accidents, Zurich adds:

Implementing a Safety Culture for Company Drivers

Organizations with a safety policy in place for drivers of company vehicles may believe they are protected from liability in case of an accident. What they may not realize, however, is their defense could hinge on documentation of steps they have taken to ensure that the policy is being followed by employees, according to the study, Creating a Safety Culture: Moving from politics to habits, by SambaSafety.

The study found that, regardless of the policy in place, “simply saying that you didn’t know about poor driving behavior will no longer cut it – not when people’s lives and companies’ well-being are at stake. With the data readily available today, the courts are sure to ask how you didn’t know.”

To implement a successful program, it is important for employees to understand that the company’s policies must be followed by employees at all levels. “If someone in senior management breaks the rules and suffers no aftereffect, what’s the motivation for others to keep things in line?” the study asks.

Additionally, safety policies are not limited to employees whose primary responsibility is driving, or to those who drive company-owned or leased vehicles. According to the study:

Employee-owned or rented vehicles that are used for work-related journeys also must be part of the equation. To decrease liability (in addition to improving safety), policies should clearly state this fact and affirm that the same safe behavior is expected of every driver in the organization – on and off the job. That behavior might include non-distracted driving, for example, or even properly maintaining a personal vehicle used for company business to ensure safety and a positive refection of the organization.

Employees need to know that their employer can be held responsible for anything that happens while employees are conducting company business. Organizations also need to see that reimbursed drivers have adequate insurance, as well as administering signed driver agreements, providing uniform driver training – and ensuring that all drivers’ behavior and records are continuously monitored.

To move into a safety culture, SambaSafety advises organizations to keep their program in line with company principles, values and brand. Also important is working with the company’s existing culture:

Employees in a high-energy, competitive environment, for example, may enjoy contests between regions vying for the safest driving records. In a top-down culture, on the other hand, employees might respond best to regular tips and reminders from respected senior leaders.

In any case, clear communication can keep drivers from feeling micromanaged or worrying about their privacy and personal information. It can also mean fewer accidents and a higher level of safety for employees.

Warning: Deer Crossing Ahead

With Oct. 1 just days away, it’s that time of the year, when deer, elk and moose become more active in the United States, increasing the risk of collisions. In fact, the risk of hitting one of these large animals doubles during the months of October, November anddeer-crossing December, according to State Farm.

This is no small matter, as these accidents can cause significant injury and damage. In fact, the average cost per claim nationally for 2015-2016 was $3,995.08, down slightly from $4,135 in 2014-2015. In its annual ranking, State Farm identifies the state where a driver is most likely to have a claim from a deer, elk or moose collision as West Virginia, where the odds are 1 in 41. The state where such a collision is least likely (excluding Hawaii) is Arizona, where odds of getting into such an accident are 1 in 1,175.

“We know there is an increased risk of collision with deer around dawn and dusk, and also during the October-December breeding season,” Chris Mullen, director of technology research at State Farm said in a statement. “However, drivers should be engaged, alert and on the lookout at all times, because you never know when you may need to react to a deer or any other obstacle that may suddenly be in your path.”

In its 2015-2016 study, State Farm found that the top five states where a driver is most likely to have a claim from a collision with a deer, elk or moose are:
deer-collision-ranking

Safety tips for drivers:

  • Slow down, particularly at dusk and dawn
  • If you see one deer, be prepared for more to cross the road
  • Pay attention to deer crossing signs
  • Always buckle up, every trip, every time
  • Use your high-beams to see farther, except when there is oncoming traffic
  • Brake if you can, but avoid swerving, which could result in a more severe crash
  • Remain focused on the road, scanning for hazards, including animals
  • Avoid distractions, like devices or eating, which could cause you to miss seeing an animal
  • Do not rely on products such as deer whistles, which are not proven effective
  • If riding a motorcycle, always wear protective gear and stay focused on the road ahead.