A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Keven Moore: What’s Kentucky’s most dangerous animal? If you’re behind the wheel, it’s a deer

The most dangerous animal in the state of Kentucky is not a rattlesnake or black bear. It is the docile, beautiful but-oh-so-deadly whitetail deer.

That’s right. Run-ins with deer on roadways cause millions of vehicle accidents every year. It’s especially common in October, November and December, the peak of mating season.

According to the Kentucky State Police, nearly 47 percent of all collisions with deer take place during the three-month period of October through December and November is by far the month with the highest incidence. The highest likelihood for a collision with deer is between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., and in the morning between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. Statistics from the past five years show 53 percent of all collisions happened during those times.

According to a 2016 State Farm study, 1 in 103 Kentuckians will have an insurance claim for damage caused by a collision with a deer. The chance of striking a deer in Kentucky has increased every year since 2012, according to the most current data from the Kentucky State Police.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said there are 1.5 million car accidents involving deer each year. The Insurance Information Institute figures it’s a little higher, with more than 1.6 million deer-vehicle collisions annually.

Those accidents result in 150 deaths, tens of thousands of injuries, and more than $3.6 billion in vehicle damage.

The percentage of deer collisions resulting in a fatality is relatively low in Kentucky compared to the rest of the nation, but it is important to be aware of this ever-present risk.
An additional billion dollars is spent on medical payments for injuries to people in the car and out-of-pocket expenses paid by vehicle owners, bringing the total cost to approximately $4.6 billion. The average claim for deer-vehicle collisions hovers around $3,000, with costs varying depending on the type of vehicle and severity of the damage.

Deer–vehicle collisions have been a problem since roadways were built in close proximity to the deer’s habitat and have steadily increased since the turn of the 20th century. Currently, it is estimated that 20 to 30 million deer populate North America. The actual number of animals killed in deer-vehicle collisions is not known because no such database exists.

Here are some defensive driving tips for avoiding a deer:

• Keep a close watch for deer in the early morning and evening hours. Deer are most active during these times.
• Slow down in posted deer crossing areas as well as at dusk and dawn.
• Be especially alert when you are moving through a known deer crossing zone.
• Use your high-beam headlights whenever possible.
• Slow down immediately when you see a deer. If you see one deer, be prepared for more deer to cross the road.
• Do not swerve.  It could cause you to lose control and hit a tree or another car.
• Always wear your seatbelt.  Most people injured or killed in deer-automobile collisions were not wearing seatbelts.
• Avoid distractions, like electronics or eating, which might cause you to miss seeing an animal.
• Do not rely on products such as deer whistles, which are not usually effective.
• If riding a motorcycle, always wear protective gear and keep focus on the road ahead.

If you strike a deer, do not touch it. The deer, in attempting to move or get away, could hurt you or itself. If possible move your automobile from the road and call the police.

Then call your insurance agent. (I just had to get that in.)

It’s in your best interest to maintain car insurance coverage protecting you against wildlife collisions. You’ll be out of luck if you think you can find a good attorney to hold the surviving deer liable for your car damage.

Be Safe My Friends.


Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both the Lexington and Northern Kentucky offices. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.

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