HELENA – As Montanans prepare for fall hunting, Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Monica J. Lindeen reminds Montanans that deer are at their most active on highways and roads in the remaining months of the year, and Montana roads are the second-most dangerous in the nation for accidents with large animals.
In 2015, one in 61 Montana drivers filed an insurance claim for an accident with a deer, elk or moose, according to the Insurance Information Institute. That’s the second highest claim rate in the country, topped only by West Virginia.
November is the top month for deer collisions, followed by December and October. The average animal-related claim nationwide was $4,135 in 2015.
“Remember – deer can be almost anywhere,” Lindeen said. “Even cautious and experienced drivers can suddenly face a large animal on Montana roads, and the result can be both expensive and dangerous. A little extra time and care while driving can prevent a bad accident and help keep auto insurance rates down for everyone.”
• Use high beams at night when possible to better spot deer.
• If you have to avoid a deer, hit the brake but don’t swerve; that can cause loss of control and a more dangerous situation.
• Deer travel in groups; where you see one, more are likely nearby.
• Use your seat belt.
• Slow down, especially in early morning and early evening. A vehicle traveling 80 mph typically takes 439 feet to stop. At 60 mph, it takes 268 feet.
After an accident with an animal, drivers should take these steps:
• Move the vehicle to a safe location, out of traffic.
• Document the incident and the damage.
• Notify a law enforcement agency by dialing 911.
• Do NOT approach the animal; it may be wounded and dangerous.
• Before driving away, double-check your vehicle for damage and hazards including leaking fluids or loose parts.
Under Montana law, drivers involved in collisions can take their vehicle to the service center of their choice. They do not have to go to a repair shop chosen by their insurance company, although insurers are only required to pay “reasonable” charges.
Lindeen also reminds drivers to check their auto policies. Many drivers do not carry comprehensive coverage and will not be entitled to a claim resulting from an accident with an animal.
Montanans with questions about auto insurance or their coverage should call their insurance agent or the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance at (800) 332-6148.