10 Worst States for Animal Collisions (2022) Study

Animals cause an estimated 1 to 2 million car crashes every year in the United States. These result in expensive repair bills, human injuries, and high numbers of human fatalities in the worst states for animal crashes. Our rankings show that the top 10 worst states for animal collisions have about 19 deaths for every 1 million registered vehicles. The worst state for animal crash fatalities is Montana, where it’s common to see bears, moose, and elk crossing major roadways.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Reviewed by Sara Routhier
Director of Outreach Sara Routhier

UPDATED: Jun 17, 2022

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A Concise Overview

  • The 10 worst states for animal collisions average 19 fatalities per 1 million vehicles
  • The most common animals that cause animal-vehicle crashes are deer
  • Most wildlife-vehicle collisions happen between September and December
  • Animals’ peak mating seasons are when animals are most active on roadways

drivers killed in animal crashes

No one wants to collide with an animal on the road, especially if it is a domestic animal. However, animal-vehicle collisions are extremely common in the worst states for animal collisions. Even if you haven’t hit an animal yet, you have likely witnessed someone else hit an animal on the road.

A number of serious issues arise from animal-vehicle collisions. Not only is there a high likelihood of damage to your vehicle, resulting in pricy auto insurance coverage repair bills, but human injury and even death are also common results of animal-vehicle collisions. Whether it’s whiplash or a broken leg, there are likely to be expensive medical bills from an animal-vehicle crash.

While you can’t do much to control animals’ actions on the road, you can educate yourself on the most dangerous states to drive through. Not only will we go over which states have the worst 10-year track records for fatalities from animal crashes, but we will also cover key topics like:

  • The most common types of animal in collisions by state
  • What the worst times of year are for animal collisions
  • Steps you can take to reduce animal collisions

We include wildlife-vehicle collision statistics to show how many accidents are caused by animals and dive deep into one of the most common animals that cause collisions: the deer. For this subject, we include deer-vehicle collision statistics in some states and when you are most likely to hit a deer.

To receive a payout from your auto insurance company if you were to hit an animal, you’d need comprehensive auto insurance. To start shopping for insurance, enter your ZIP code into our free online quote comparison tool. It’ll give you the best rates in your area based on your personalized insurance needs.

We ranked the top 10 worst states by looking at the number of recorded fatalities over a 10-year-period relative to the number of registered vehicles. So if you are ready to find out if you live in one of the most dangerous states for animal collisions and what you can do to stay safe, read on.

Worst States for Animal Collisions Ranked

The 10 worst states for animal crashes ranked are scattered around the United States, all with differing geographic topography and human populations. What they do have in common is that they all have a high number of animal crash fatalities.

Which state has the highest risk of animal collisions? Our researchers pulled total fatalities from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) study on animal collisions and divided each state’s total fatalities over a 10-year-period by the state’s number of registered vehicles. The resulting numbers showed which states had the highest fatality rates relative to the number of registered vehicles in the state.

Take a look at the fatality rates per 1 million registered vehicles in the table below.

10-Year Stats: Traffic Deaths in Animal Collisions (2009-2018)
Rank State Fatality RateHuman Deaths
1Montana 24.643
2South Dakota 22.927
3Alaska 21.217
4Wyoming 20.517
5Wisconsin 20.3112
6Kansas 17.446
8New Mexico 16.430
9North Dakota 14.113
10Oklahoma 13.046
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Several factors can cause higher fatality rates in a state, from the size of local animals to a lack of animal population control. Regardless of the variables that went into creating high fatality numbers in these states, it is clear that these states have had high numbers of severe animal crashes over the years.

The top 10 states’ average fatality rate is 18.7 fatalities per 1 million registered vehicles.

Many of the states on this list are taking active measures to reduce animal collisions, from proposing more underground tunnels under highways to educating the public about when to watch out for local animals. Stick with us to learn more about each state on the top 10 list of worst states for animal crashes.

#10 – Oklahoma

  • Total Traffic Deaths from Animal Collisions (2009-2018): 46
  • Registered Vehicles: 3,537,385

Oklahoma ranks 10th on our list of the top 10 worst states for animal collisions. Between the years of 2009-2018, there was a total of 13.0 deaths from animal crashes per 1 million vehicles.

This is a high rate, as even though animal collisions are common, fatalities from animal crashes are less common. A higher rate means that Oklahoma residents have a higher risk of dying from animal crashes than in other states.

So what animals in Oklahoma are causing all of these accidents? Some of the most populous wildlife in the state of Oklahoma are deer, elk, and pronghorn antelopes. Deer are usually the main culprit of crashes in Oklahoma.

Just how many deer are in Oklahoma? The Oklahoma Wildlife Department hunting reports showed that 2019 hunters harvested a total of 66,594 deer. This represents just a small fraction of the total deer in Oklahoma.

There are limits on how many deer hunters can kill so the deer population isn’t wiped out. The actual population of deer in Oklahoma is impossible to calculate, but based on hunting records, the state estimates there are at least half a million deer in Oklahoma.

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#9 – North Dakota

  • Total Traffic Deaths from Animal Collisions (2009-2018): 13
  • Registered Vehicles: 922,640

North Dakota ranks 9th on our list of the top 10 worst states for animal collisions. With 14.1 deaths from animal crashes per 1 million vehicles, North Dakotans and visitors should keep an eye out for wildlife on the roads.

While the main culprit of animal-related crashes in North Dakota is deer, you may occasionally see large mammals like elk or moose near roadways.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) estimates that deer cause several thousand crashes annually. Deer crashes make up about 15 percent of all crashes in North Dakota.

The economic impact of these crashes is enormous, as the NDDOT stated that in 2006, deer crashes cost roughly $32.4 million. Seem high? A deer crash not only results in the owner having to pay for vehicle and medical bills, but there is also the government cost of cleaning up the carcass or euthanasia if the animal is still alive and suffering.

#8 – New Mexico

  • Total Traffic Deaths from Animal Collisions (2009-2018): 30
  • Registered Vehicles: 1,828,466

New Mexico places 8th on our list, with a total of 16.1 deaths from animal crashes per 1 million vehicles. Some of the most dangerous animals in New Mexico are deer and elk. Why?

According to the University of New Mexico’s report on annual crash data from the New Mexico Department of Transportation, deer and elk caused 66.4 percent of the total 1,928 animal-related crashes in 2018.

Take a look at the table below to see the top culprits of 2018 animal crashes in New Mexico (coyotes and horses tied for fifth place with a total of 42 crashes each).

Traffic Accidents Involving Animals in New Mexico
Animal Type Collisions
Elk 289
Cow 252
Horse 42
Coyote 42
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As you can see from the list, it is not just wild animals that cause crashes in New Mexico. Domesticated animals like cows, horses, and dogs caused a total of 416 crashes in 2018. So not only do New Mexicans have to contend with large wildlife darting in front of vehicles, but domestic animals from farms may also wander onto the road.

#7 – Maine

  • Total Traffic Deaths from Animal Collisions (2009-2018): 19
  • Registered Vehicles: 1,125,262

Maine is not one of the biggest states, but it certainly hosts numerous types of wildlife. The large game you may see on the roads are deer and moose. The state has posted numerous road signs warning drivers of deer and moose crossings in areas where the animal populations are highest to help reduce accidents.

The Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) collects accident data by animal type every year, so let’s take a look at which five animals are the biggest problems in the state of Maine.

Traffic Accidents Involving Animals in Maine
Animal Type Collisions
Deer 5,952
Moose 256
All other animals 182
Turkey 49
Bear 28
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Deer and moose are the most common causes of accidents in Maine, but less common large animals like bears also caused a fair number of crashes in 2018. Because moose are enormous animals, they can do a significant amount of damage to vehicles.

Because of their size, moose can cause serious damage to cars and people, especially if moose are injured and thrashing around because they are stuck in the vehicle.

#6 – Kansas

  • Total Traffic Deaths from Animal Collisions (2009-2018): 46
  • Registered Vehicles: 2,645,831

In Kansas, there have been a total of 17.4 animal crash deaths per 1 million vehicles from 2009 to 2018. The majority of these crashes are caused by the deer population in Kansas, although other animals on Kansas’ roadways include bison, coyotes, foxes, and bobcats. There are also small animals like beavers, rabbits, and raccoons that can cause crashes.

Because deer cause the majority of crashes, however, the Kansas Department of Transportation (KSDOT) only records annual deer crashes.

In 2018, deer caused a total of 10,736 crashes that injured 593 people and killed three people.

So while you may see a lumbering bison or two in Kansas, your biggest threat is deer. According to the KSDOT, deer caused 16.5 percent of total Kansas crashes in 2018. That’s a very high percentage and is why Kansas is one of the most dangerous states for animal collisions.

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#5 – Wisconsin

  • Total Traffic Deaths from Animal Collisions (2009-2018): 112
  • Registered Vehicles: 5,530,172

The state of Wisconsin had a total of 20.3 deaths from animal collisions from 2009 to 2018. Once again, deer are the main culprit of animal-related crashes, although you will also see small animals like foxes and raccoons on the road.

Because deer are the main cause of animal crashes in Wisconsin, though, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) only records the number of annual deer crashes every year.

In 2019, deer caused a total of 18,414 crashes, resulting in nine human fatalities and 556 human injuries.

While there are larger animals than deer in Wisconsin, it is rare that you will crash into one or even see one by the side of the road.

Why? The moose and elk population is so low in Wisconsin that moose are a protected species, and elk have a limited hunting season to encourage the elk population to grow. And while black bears are a thriving population in Wisconsin, it is usually easier to see a lumbering black bear crossing the road than a deer darting in front of a car.

#4 – Wyoming

  • Total Traffic Deaths from Animal Collisions (2009-2018): 17
  • Registered Vehicles: 829,321

The state of Wyoming had a total of 20.5 animal crash deaths per 1 million vehicles from the years 2009 to 2018. This high number earns Wyoming the 4th spot on our list. Home to the famous Yellowstone Park, Wyoming has many large wild animals roaming its rural and urban roads.

Unfortunately, many animals in Yellowstone Park are hit and killed every year by tourists, as wildlife is often next to roads in Wyoming and Yellowstone Park.

The most common animals are deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, black bears, and moose. While you may also spot grizzly bears, bison, or wild horses, their numbers are more limited and, therefore, much less likely to cause accidents.

With so many diverse animals living in Wyoming, the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) lumps all animal-related crashes into one statistic instead of recording data by species.

In 2019, there was a total of 2,658 crashes with wildlife in Wyoming. Since the total number of crashes in Wyoming was 14,885, wildlife caused 17.8 percent of all vehicle crashes.

Bear in mind that the state has only recorded wild animal crashes. Domestic animal crashes are not calculated into this number, which means that Wyoming’s percentage could be even higher than our analysts calculated. Because of this, Wyoming has well earned its spot as the 4th most dangerous state for animal crashes.

#3 – Alaska

  • Total Traffic Deaths from Animal Collisions (2009-2018): 17
  • Registered Vehicles: 803,672

Alaska doesn’t have a high number of drivers on its streets, but the low population of people means that the number of wild animals near roadways is higher than average. The leading cause of animal crashes in Alaska is moose.

Alaska has the highest rate of moose-vehicle collisions in the United States. It’s not uncommon to see a moose in your backyard in Alaska, which means it’s also common to see one crossing the street.

The Alaska Department of Transportation’s (Alaska DOT) last study of 2011 moose collisions showed that moose caused a total of 666 crashes in 2011. In fact, moose caused 12 percent of all crashes in just the area of the municipality of Anchorage.

The majority of moose crashes in Alaska will occur between December and January, when roads are icy and visibility is poor. It is especially important to pay attention to rural roads, where moose exist in higher numbers. The Alaska DOT’s 2011 study found that 76 percent of moose car accidents were on rural roads.

In addition to the higher number of moose collisions in Alaska, drivers may also collide with blacktail deer, caribou, bears, foxes, and more. So whether you live in Alaska or are just visiting, keep in mind that a state with a larger wildlife population and more rural roads means a higher risk of animal-vehicle accidents.

#2 – South Dakota

  • Total Traffic Deaths from Animal Collisions (2009-2018): 27
  • Registered Vehicles: 1,177,825

South Dakota is the second-worst state for animal collisions, with a total of 22.9 deaths from animal crashes from 2009 to 2018. The main culprit of animal crashes in South Dakota? Deer.

With a population in the hundreds of thousands, deer are the most common animal you may crash into in South Dakota. You may also see antelope, elk, coyotes, and prairie dogs.

In 2019, the South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) recorded 4,976 crashes caused by animals. With a total of 20,391 crashes occurring in 2019, this means that animals in South Dakota caused 24 percent of crashes.

This is a very high percentage and shows why South Dakota has a high number of animal crash fatalities per 1 million vehicles. The more animal-vehicle crashes that occur, the more likely it is that there will be fatalities.

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#1 – Montana

  • Total Traffic Deaths from Animal Collisions (2009-2018): 43
  • Registered Vehicles: 1,747,009

The state of Montana is the worst state for animal collision fatalities, as it had 24.6 animal crash deaths per 1 million vehicles from the years 2009 to 2018. Like Alaska, Montana has issues with large animals like moose, elk, and deer on its roadways.

Why? Montana is another state that has a low human population. While this means less traffic on the roads, it also means more animals on the roads. Less urban expansion into wildlife populations means animals can thrive in greater numbers. The result is that Montana has the highest number of animal crash fatalities per 1 million vehicles.

According to the Montana Department of Transportation (MTD) 2018 report about road issues, there was a total of 3,496 crashes caused by animals. Montana wildlife can seem to run out of nowhere, due to surrounding woods and tall grasses.

Because the likelihood of running into an animal in Montana is so high, there have been numerous efforts and plans to create safer roadway crossings for wildlife, such as underground tunnels under highways. However, the state is still in dire need of more animal crossings to lower the number of animal crashes.

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Animal Collision Deaths Across America

While animal collision deaths are most common in the worst states for animal collisions, this doesn’t mean animal collisions don’t happen everywhere. Take a look at the table below to see where your state ranks for animal collisions. The death rate for each state is the number of traffic deaths for every one million registered vehicles.

Animal-Related Traffic Death Rate in All States
RankStateRegistered VehiclesAnimal-Related Traffic DeathsDeath Rate
2South Dakota1,177,8252722.9
8New Mexico1,828,4663016.4
9North Dakota922,6401314.1
13South Carolina4,273,2615412.6
18West Virginia1,651,2641710.3
23New Hampshire1,318,889129.1
32North Carolina8,071,315465.7
37New York11,000,892534.8
44New Jersey6,173,356172.8
45Rhode Island872,24922.3
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If you live in Massachusetts, Hawaii, or California, you also live in one of the states with the lowest death rates for animal-vehicle collisions. While the death rate for the worst state, Montana, is almost 25 deaths per million vehicles, the death rate for all three of the best states is fewer than two deaths.

Comprehensive auto insurance coverage is a must if you live in one of the states with the highest animal collision rates, as it is the only auto insurance coverage that reimburses you for damages if you get into a collision with an animal.

This shouldn’t be confused with PLPD auto insurance (also called personal liability and property damage insurance). Collisions with animals fall into a very specific bracket within comprehensive auto insurance. PLPD auto insurance won’t cover you in the event of a collision with an animal.

Neither will collision auto insurance coverage, which is often confused with comprehensive auto insurance coverage. Collision auto insurance is reserved for all collisions — except those with animals. Generally, auto insurance companies require that drivers purchase collision and comprehensive auto insurance together, as they are complementary.

Most Dangerous Time of Year to Drive

You now know what the worst states for animal-vehicle collision fatalities are, but what are the worst times of year to drive in these states? Knowing when animals are more likely to be on the road is important, as staying extra alert during problematic seasons and times can help you avoid an accident.

To show you the worst times of the year for animal collision claims, our team collected data from the IIHS on animal collision claims by month. The IIHS calculated their data by dividing the number of claims for vehicles by 1,000 insured vehicle years.

What does an insured vehicle year mean?

According to the IIHS, it is simply the amount of time vehicles are under insurance, so an insured vehicle year could be “one vehicle insured for one year” or “two vehicles insured for six months, etc.”

For example, 100 animal collision claims in March divided by 1,000 insured vehicle years would equal a 10 percent likelihood of filing an animal claim.

Take a look at the graphic below to see what times of year have the highest likelihood of animal collision claims.

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Animal-vehicle collision statistics show that the fall months (the major breeding times for deer and other large mammals) are when most animal collision claims are filed.

During breeding seasons, animals are more active as they seek out mates. In addition, when it comes to species like deer, the males will begin to act unpredictable, making them more likely to dart in front of cars.

Take a look at the graphic below to see what the usual animal mating seasons are for common wildlife.

While animal mating seasons may vary slightly depending on what state you live in (due to climate and other environmental factors), these are the main time periods you can expect to see increased activity. Keep in mind that after animal gestation periods, you will also see more baby animals near roadways, such as rabbits or fawns.

Naturally, with higher volumes of animals near roadways during and after mating season, there is also an increased number of human fatalities from animal-vehicle collisions.

Based on the averages our team pulled from 10-year total fatalities from the IIHS, the highest number of fatalities occur in the late summer and early winter.

The graphic below lays out the average animal-vehicle crash fatalities by season.

Because most animals are active early in the morning or in the evening (especially prey animals like deer and rabbits), these are the times you are most likely to hit an animal. It doesn’t help that there is also limited visibility at these hours, making it harder to see animals on the road (especially if the animals are lingering off to the side).

So if at all possible, try to limit your driving during these times of day, especially in the months when animal collision fatalities are highest. If you do have to drive at dawn or dusk hours, drive defensively and stay alert.

While we’ve covered the dangers of hitting animals on the road, there are additional dangers to traveling with a pet. That’s why we’ve created this safety guide for pets in your car, to prepare you and your pet for travel, which can limit the possibility of a major accident.

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Interviews with Insurance Agents and Travelers Around the World

Now that the animal crashes in the worst states for animal collisions have been covered, it’s time to hear what the experts have to say about animal collisions and what drivers can do to keep themselves safe. Our experts range from experienced insurance agents and lawyers to experienced world travelers, as well as auto shop owners who see a number of animal collision repairs.

advice from experts around the world

“We often hear of car accidents involving large animals like deer and moose. While visiting family in Michigan, I saw a deer take out a Ford F-150 pickup truck. It was a disaster. Here in Florida, though, it’s the smaller animals that are road hazards.

I’ve heard stories from customers who have had close encounters on the road with everything from squirrels to neighborhood cats and dogs running suddenly into the street. Pythons lying in the road are also a familiar sight for Florida drivers.

Recently, I had a customer who was driving in the Florida Keys and had a near-accident situation when he had to slam on the brakes to avoid an iguana in the road. Fortunately, everyone was safe and no vehicle damage was done.

If you see an animal on the road, check your surroundings, and approach with caution. The safest move is to slow down and drive around the animal blocking the roadway. If that’s not possible and you have to come to a full stop, be aware of other drivers on the road so you avoid a collision.

Even a small animal can do damage to your vehicle. If you hit an animal of any size, wait until you’re in a safe location and then pull over to check your car for any damage.

Any damage done in this type of situation, where you run into another car, would be covered by your auto insurance if your policy includes collision coverage.

Some people don’t add collision to their policy if they have an older vehicle. But as car repairs are getting more and more expensive, I recommend having this coverage to keep you protected.”

Brent Campbell headshot

Brent Campbell is a licensed insurance agent with Squeeze Insurance.
Squeeze is a fully licensed independent insurance agency located in South Florida.

“During my travels, I have seen a lot of animal-related accidents that could be avoided. Personally, I think that Arizona and Texas are the worst states for wild animals that are both dangerous and related to a lot of auto accidents.

In Arizona, there are a lot of scorpions, tarantulas, etc. that are out there in the wild and can bite and cause damage to people. If you are not prepared this can be very dangerous.

As for Texas, there have been several hundred animal-related deaths there in 20 years, and with the number of bears, boars, spiders, alligators, etc. that they have, you can understand why.

If you are looking to swerve around an animal that is on the road, there are two ways to do this. If the animal is small, a honk of your horn should move them. If they are a larger animal, try this, but if you are afraid they may be aggressive, reverse where possible and drive slowly closer towards them. This is a way to intimidate them and will remove them from the road. Make sure to keep your car doors locked at this point.

If you hit an animal, you should stop if they are not an animal that is considered vermin. While you may want to save all wildlife, most vets will not treat wildlife, so only stop if it is a larger animal or an animal you believe belongs to someone. If you are afraid the animal will wake up and hurt you, call animal control and move from the area.”

Will Hatton headshot

Will Hatton is the founder and CEO of The Broke Backpacker.
Will and his team design global adventure itineraries and travel guides.

“Besides the most common, deer, other animals that are frequently involved in vehicle collisions are squirrels, birds, dogs, and rabbits.

Small animals such as squirrels, rabbits, and birds can be just as hazardous as large animals because they both can cause traffic accidents. If someone is trying to avoid hitting a small animal, the damage caused can be just as extensive as the damage caused when trying to avoid hitting a big animal.

When you see an animal crossing into the road right in front of you, I think the safest maneuver you can do is hit your brakes. Turning your steering wheel can lead to a much more deadly collision with a tree. Plus, the momentum of hitting the brakes and quickly cutting the steering wheel could cause your vehicle to flip over and roll.

When involved in an accident, the kind of animal that should always be reported to law officials is a dog. The reason for this is because they are almost always owned by a family. Dogs can be service animals or even owned by the military or police force.

Other animals like squirrels and rabbits are usually wild and living in the woods. It is not nearly as likely that they strayed from someone’s home.

If you hit a large animal like a bear, my suggestion would be to call for assistance because your vehicle will most likely be severely damaged. You should also call the police or animal control to report the issue.

The driver should stop immediately when they hit an animal to lessen the damage. The consequences of not stopping are that the accident may become fatal to the driver and passengers involved in the crash, whether the animal is alive or not.

To reduce the number of animal collisions every year, states should devise a means of capturing larger, dangerous, or injured animals and taking them to a natural habitat or zoo where they are safe.

Fortunately, I have not been involved in an animal-related car accident before.”

Issac Imafidon Headshot

Imafidon Isaac is the editor-in-chief of the news site AprokoHub.com.
He lives in Nigeria and has a passion for safe travel.

“The animals you might find leaping in front of your car depend heavily on what part of the country you’re in. For example, in northern states like Maine, it’s not uncommon to see moose on the road.

When drivers see a moose on the road, it’s advised that they simply stop their car and wait for the moose to wander off the road. Moose are unpredictable animals and have been known to attack motor vehicles when they feel threatened.

The biggest danger that small animals like rabbits and squirrels pose to drivers is that a nervous driver might swerve erratically to avoid them. Swerving even at low speeds can cause accidents, and if the vehicle is traveling fast enough, it could flip or skid off the road.

Bigger animals like moose or bears could not only damage your vehicle but if exacerbated, they could room further into the city and attack pedestrians.

The safest maneuver when an animal is in front of you is to apply the brakes and keep the wheel straight. Even if you end up hitting the animal from straight on, it’s still safer for yourself and others than swerving into another lane.

It’s important if you hit a large animal like a deer to stay inside your car. You can pull over to a safe place and report the incident to the police, but do not exit the vehicle. The animal may be alive and in shock, you wouldn’t want to approach the animal and risk making it feel threatened.”

Jake McKenzie is the content manager at Auto Accessories Garage.
This family-owned business sells automotive parts and accessories.

“I have lived at least a full year in both Australia and Singapore. Besides deer, I have seen wallabies, kangaroos, monkeys, and wild boars be common hazards on roads.

I find small animals to be equally as hazardous as larger ones. It’s often the speed at which the animals cross the road without any prior indication that is the main cause of worry to me. And animals are attracted to light — that’s why they find themselves caught in our headlights often, especially during nighttime.

If you see an animal on, or by the side of the road, slow down! Honking is not the best bet.

In emergency situations, you may need to brake hard. Swerving is not a good idea, as you may run into other vehicles or road users instead and lose control of your vehicle.

Yet, in the case of a large animal, hitting them may be life-threatening, and swerving may be the only option. As well, you can safely say that if the animal you hit obstructs the road or is known to be protected by law, there is a need to report it to law officials and inform the owner of the animal.

In both Australia and Singapore, there are heavy fines for failing to stop and attend to injured animals. The penalties drivers face can even include jail time.

Authorities feel that it is fully the driver’s responsibility to be cautious and aware, as there are warning signs for animal sightings and crossings peppered on almost every road. However, I believe there should be more voracious awareness campaigns about ‘animal hit and run’ scenarios.

I have not known anyone who has been close to being involved in an animal-related accident before. I am only aware that it is a good idea to inform one’s insurer of the incident within 24 hours. Report all damages caused to your vehicle for the best chance of it being covered under your insurance policy.”

Pawena Kaniah Headshot

Pawena Kaniah writes about auto insurance for Budget Direct Insurance.
Insurance coverage for animal collisions is one of her areas of expertise.

“If you hit an animal, it’s important that you stop and check it, not only because it’s the humane thing to do, but because there could be legal implications if you don’t.

While not all states require you to report hitting an animal, many of them do, and if you flee the scene you may be cited for animal cruelty or ignoring property damages (if the animal is someone’s pet).

In many cases, hitting something like a deer is considered unavoidable because they’re wild animals and can dart out in front of the car very quickly. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with state rules because they vary.

If you do happen to hit an animal and aren’t sure what to do or what the laws are, stop your car, check the animal to see if it’s okay, contact the animal’s owner (if it’s a pet), and call the officials.

If you need to take some time to recover, pull over your car, put your hazards on and breathe. If any of your passengers are injured, you should call 911.

If it’s a wild animal that you hit and it is alright and quickly leaves the area, you can check to see if your car has any damage or if it might need to be towed.

If the animal is injured and thrashing, although you might want to help it, this can be a very dangerous combination (even if the animal seems harmless), so it’s best to call the officials to come to handle the situation.”

Blake Hardwick headshot

Blake Hardwick represents the NYC personal injury attorney office Greenberg & Stein, PC.
This law office has over 75 years of litigation experience including animal-related claims.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Animal Collisions, Response, and Coverage

Do you still have questions about animal collisions? Our team has collected the most commonly asked questions about animal collisions in the United States and answered them, so read on.

#1 – How many accidents are caused by animals?

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration estimates that about 1 to 2 million car crashes are caused by animals every year. Because not every car accident and its cause are reported, it is hard for the U.S. Department of Transportation to get exact numbers for how many animals cause car accidents.

Because some animal accidents are unreported, however, you can expect animal crash numbers in your state to be slightly higher than the reported numbers.

#2 – Why are so many deer hit by cars?

Just how common are deer accidents? Can you die from hitting a deer? Deer are one of the top large animals hit in the United States and cause the highest number of animal-vehicle fatalities.

While plenty of squirrels, rabbits, and other small creatures are also hit, deer usually cause more serious crashes. There are a number of reasons deer are prone to get hit on roadways, such as:

  • Fantastic night vision. They are easily blinded by bright lights, which is why deer freeze in headlights. If you’ve ever had trouble seeing when stepping from a dark room into bright sunlight, then you have had a little taste of what deer experience.
  • Great hearing. Deer are easily spooked by noises. Because they are prey animals, their first instinct is to run away from the noise. However, this usually means that at the sound of a car, they dart across the road rather than away from the road.
  • Drive to mate. The fall months (mating season) are when deer are hit the most. The bucks act strangely during mating season, which means that they are more likely to care about the doe they smell on the other side of the road than the vehicles coming towards them.

Because of these factors, and the fact that deer are one of the larger animals that has high populations in most states, deer cause the majority of car accidents in America.

#3 – Do deer whistles really work on cars?

Deer whistles are small devices that attach to vehicles and are supposed to emit a high, ultrasonic sound that only deer can hear. The idea is that the sound will scare away any deer lingering by the road.

However, there have been no scientific studies done on whistles’ effect on deer-vehicle collisions statistics by state to determine if they actually work to prevent deer auto accidents. While it never hurts to try, you would probably be better off driving defensively and avoiding late-night driving than depending upon a whistle to prevent deer crashes.

#4 – Can you keep a deer you hit with your car?

What should you do if you hit a deer? You can only keep a deer you hit with your car if you get a permit. You can do so by contacting your local law enforcement.

If you don’t want to eat the deer carcass yourself, there are sometimes programs where you can donate the deer carcass to feed underprivileged families. Just make sure you get a permit, as taking a deer carcass without a permit will result in steep fines.

#5 – Are you required to stop if you hit an animal?

Many states have laws requiring you to stop if you hit an animal, especially if it is a domestic animal like a dog or cat. If you hit a domestic animal and drive off, law enforcement may charge you with a hit and run, especially if the animal is alive and suffering.

You should call the police for help if you hit a domestic animal or if you hit a wild animal and want a permit to collect the carcass. Our experts also recommend calling the police if the animal runs away after being hit, as the police may track the injured animal (wild or domestic) to check its injury and determine the next steps.

#6 – How do you cope with running over an animal?

No one wants to run over an animal, especially if it is a domestic animal. Not only are there car repair bills and possible injury to drivers and passengers, but there may also be psychological trauma. Why? Animal lovers may experience guilt after a car crash, especially if the animal is still alive after impact and suffering. Drivers may also be anxious about driving again if they were in a traumatic crash with a large animal like a deer or moose.

If the guilt or driving anxiety doesn’t go away, it may help to talk to others experiencing the same thing, such as through an online forum. Taking defensive driving courses that specifically cover what to do when faced with animals on the road can also give drivers the confidence to head back on the roads.

#7 – What coverage should I get for animal crashes?

It is important that you have comprehensive insurance if you live in one of the top 10 worst states, as comprehensive insurance will cover animal collision claims.

Most drivers ditch comprehensive insurance if they have older vehicles, but this is usually a mistake. Not only does comprehensive insurance cover the bills from animal collisions, but it also covers damages and losses from the following:

  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Weather
  • Natural disasters
  • Falling objects
  • Water damage
  • And more…

So even if you don’t live in the worst state for animal crashes, you may live in an area prone to theft or flooding, making it prudent to carry comprehensive insurance.

As we’ve already mentioned, it’s easy to get confused between comprehensive and collision auto insurance coverages. Check out our comparison between the two — should I buy collision or comprehensive auto insurance — for a larger breakdown between the two.

#8 – What animal gets hit by cars the most?

The animal that gets hit by cars the most varies according to the time of the year and the location. But in the majority of the states, the animal hit the most is deer. It is also an animal that can cause a great deal of damage to a car and lead to traffic deaths.

#9 – Who removes roadkill?

The group that removes roadkill varies from state to state in name. It can be called the animal control group, street maintenance department, public safety department, game and wildlife management group, or more. If you’re unsure, you can dial your local police department and asked to be transferred to the right department or to be told the right group.

#10 – What animals do you have to report if you hit?

Calling the police is important if you’ve had a collision with an animal or noticed one in the road. The reason is that it is dangerous for other drivers if there is a large animal carcass in the road, as people might try to swerve around it, perform dangerous driving maneuvers, or run into it themselves. If you’ve had a collision with an animal, getting a police report can help when contacting your insurance company.

#11 – What is done with roadkill?

Generally, they are buried underground or under compost to let the carcasses of the animals decompose.

#12 – How much do roadkill collectors make?

It depends greatly on the location. Some can make well more than the average salary in America, up to $75,000 or even higher, while some might work on an hourly basis and earn as little as $15 per hour.

#13 – Is it illegal to not report hitting a deer?

It’s generally not illegal (though always check with the state department rules in the state where you hit the deer) but is recommended as a deer carcass in the middle of the road can cause problems for other drivers. Reporting an animal collision can also help when dealing with your insurance company as you can request a copy of the police report to make your case.

#14 – Can you swerve to avoid hitting a dog?

You can legally stop for animals crossing the road — as seen often in videos of big cats or geese — but if you swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid hitting an animal, you can be held liable for the damage you cause if your actions lead to an accident.

#15 – What is the most common roadkill?

The most common roadkill (or the animal that humans get into auto collisions the most with) is deer. Collisions with deer happen most often between October to December and represent a large number of driver-animal accidents.

Methodology: Determining the Worst States for Animal Collisions

Our team of researchers determined the rankings in this article by collecting multiple sets of data from the following sources:

  • Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS)
  • U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (U.S. DOT FHA)

Our researchers collected the total number of animal crash fatalities for each state for a 10-year period (2009-2018) from data from the IIHS. Our team of researchers then divided the resulting 10-year totals by the states’ average number of registered vehicles collected from the U.S. DOT FHA to calculate the total deaths per 1 million vehicles.

The resulting numbers from these calculations were used as the basis for our rankings. Using the number of registered drivers in our calculations considers the size of the driving population relevant to fatalities in the state. Otherwise, states like Texas would always rank first due to the higher number of drivers on the road. While more drivers always equal more crashes, this doesn’t mean you will have a high likelihood of crashing into an animal.

Calculating rankings by death rather than total accidents also allowed for more accurate ratings, as not all drivers report accidents with animals. However, states will investigate vehicle accidents that result in human death much more thoroughly than a non-fatal accident with an animal.

Therefore, using fatalities allowed our analysts to make more accurate ratings. In the reports we compiled, our researchers also found that states with lower populations and rural settings like Alaska tend to have the highest totals of animal crash fatalities per 1 million vehicles.

We’ve noted that you need comprehensive auto insurance coverage to protect you financially if you hit an animal. Plug your ZIP code into our free online quote generator to get the best auto insurance rates for comprehensive auto insurance coverage and other coverages.

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Vehicle Crashes Caused by Animals
Vehicle Crashes Caused by Animals