Deer Collisions Hit Close to Home Crashes at their Peak in October, November

ERIE, Pa., Oct. 7 /PRNewswire/ — What are the chances your car or truck will strike a deer this fall? Ask Rob Roddy, an actuary at Erie Insurance Group who supervises the company’s annual deer claim study. During the month of November and just three weeks after buying a new vehicle, Roddy crashed headlong into a deer not far from his suburban neighborhood. He kept his wits about him and didn’t swerve into oncoming traffic, avoiding injury but not escaping a hefty repair bill — $3,600 for the damage to his headlight, grill and passenger-side door.

“I was coming around a bend and all of the sudden a deer came out of nowhere,” said Roddy. “I didn’t even have time to put on my brakes.”

Roddy found out the hard way that ERIE’s statistics were right on. Most collisions with animals occur during the last week of October and first two weeks of November, and more than 50% of deer collisions take place between 5 p.m. and midnight.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports 1.5 million deer- vehicle crashes like Roddy’s rack up $1.1 billion in property damages, tens of thousands of injuries, and more than 200 deaths every year. Erie Insurance hopes to make a dent in those numbers with driver education.

“We’ve all had the deer-in-the-headlights look at one time or another,” says Mark Dombrowski, a spokesman for Erie Insurance, “That heart-stopping near miss when a deer appears out of nowhere and darts across the road. The key is staying alert and knowing precisely what to do to avoid a collision.”

ERIE’s efforts to educate drivers on how to avoid collisions with deer were launched six years ago when the company noticed a spike in its deer claims during the October-November mating season. Since 1999 the actuarial department has conducted its annual review, studying frequency, location, severity and total costs. By performing the study and providing tips to drivers in high-risk areas, Erie Insurance has seen an improvement in deer claims frequency, despite a growing deer herd in many states.

The company’s latest report shows ERIE’s deer claim frequency declined for the third straight year and now stands at its lowest level in six years.

In 2004, ERIE saw its largest decline in deer claim frequency (11%) since the company began its study, and the third straight year in which deer collisions declined. For the first time in at least 6 years, the company experienced a decrease in both the actual number of deer claims (9%) and the amount of paid losses for deer claims (down $3.4 million).

Still, deer pose a serious and ever-present threat to drivers. At Erie Insurance, deer claims for 2004 accounted for 40% of all comprehensive losses. Paid losses from the company’s 26,660 deer claims, though 6% lower than in 2003, totaled a significant $56.3 million. The average cost of a deer claim was $2,110, 4% higher than in 2003. ERIE’s highest deer claim frequencies occurred along the New York/Pennsylvania border, the Catskills region of New York, and in central West Virginia.

Many approaches are under way to reduce deer collisions, but few have proven effective, reports the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In one study, attention-getting temporary warning signs with flashing lights and reflective flags reduced the number of deer collisions by half. Some methods – like fencing, combined with underpasses and overpasses, and high-tech signs that activate when deer are detected near the road – show promise, but more research and development is needed, according to the IIHS.

In the meantime, experts agree defensive driving is the best way to avoid crashes with animals.

“Stay alert, awake and sober. Always wear your safety belts. Give the road your undivided attention at all times,” says Erie Insurance’s Mark Dombrowski.

“Keep your eyes on the road, doing a visual sweep for deer during October, November and December, when most deer collisions occur. If you’re going 60 mph, you can cover a lot of ground in just a few seconds – 30 yards per second or the length of a football field in the time it takes to change a CD or reach for your travel mug.”

Click here for information on the deer collision statistics in your state and more specific actions you can take to keep deer off your dash and out of your front seat. http://www.erieinsurance.com/SafeCsmr/Deer/launch.htm

Known for competitive rates and superior service, Erie Insurance Group is a leading property/casualty insurer in the United States. With more than 3.7 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. 425 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 http://www.erieinsurance.com/

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