The Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner and State Police Department issued a warning to remind drivers that this time of year is when you are most likely to be involved in a deer-related collision. Nationally, the number of these crashes declined, but in Pennsylvania, they increased during 2017. PennDOT data shows that the state had 5,468 such crashes in 2016 and 5,674 in 2017.
The number of deer-related accidents that resulted in a fatality rose from 13 to 17 in 2017 and spanned fourteen counties across the state. Breeding season for deer is during the fall and they are more likely to be on the move. Remember that these animals tend to travel in groups so remain alert after spotting one.
National Crash Data
State Farm Insurance reports that motorists have approximately a one in 167 chance of striking a deer, elk, or similar wild animal. West Virginia has been the leading state for deer collisions for several years now. Roughly one in 46 drivers in West Virginia is involved in a collision with a deer. The states with the fewest number are Hawaii, California, Nevada, Arizona, and Washington D.C. The top five states are as follows:
Leading States for Deer Collisions 
1 in 46
1 in 57
1 in 63
1 in 72
1 in 73
Risks in Maryland
Among U.S. states, Maryland ranks as #23 for the likelihood of a deer-related collision. Deer are frequently on the move during the fall months of October and November. Paul Peditto, of Maryland’s Wildlife and Heritage Services, explained that drivers are most likely to encounter a deer from the period between dusk and dawn. It is important to remain alert along dark roadways and remember that swerving to avoid a deer can often lead to a more dangerous collision with another moving vehicle.
Comparing Collisions: Domestic vs Wild Animal
The owner of a domestic animal may be held liable in collisions involving their pets on the roadway. In the case of a wild animal, you will need likely to pay for damages. Striking a wild animal and avoiding a collision with other vehicles or objects is often a preferred outcome. Sometimes motorists abruptly swerve to avoid an animal and will instead strike another motorist. In these cases, the driver may be liable for the accident. The state law places liability on the “swerving” driver because they are potentially risking human lives. The basis is that the driver could have avoided a crash with another vehicle if it had proceeded to strike the animal.
Damages from animal collisions are generally paid for by the comprehensive coverage of an automobile insurance policy. Most policies will require the insured to pay a deductible amount stated in the policy agreement. Pennsylvania law does not assign fault in collisions involving a deer or other wild animal; therefore, your insurance company may not add surcharges to your premium. Those who do not have comprehensive vehicle coverage will be responsible for paying the damages out-of-pocket.
Best Safety Practices
- Reduce your speed in areas where deer are commonly encountered
- On dimly lit roads use your high-beam lights to allow for better visibility
- It is generally better to firmly apply the brakes than to swerve and potentially strike a passing vehicle
- Focus on the stretch of road ahead and limit distractions
- Do not exclusively rely on a deer whistle
- Motorcyclists should wear all recommended safety gear