There was a story in a few of the national newspapers this week about a £5,500 motor insurance claim that was caused by a squirrel dropping into a moving open-topped car. The woman diver was so startled by the arrival of the uninvited furry rodent that she lost control of the car and crashed into a tree.
Clearly there’s an amusing aspect to this animal encounter and the rather oddball cause of the insurance claim that followed. But that’s only because there was no one injured in the incident.
The reports went on to reveal a much more serious and widespread problem when animals and cars meet unexpectedly. The AA estimates that in the last two months alone there will have been about 4,000 incidents of this nature that will have resulted in a motor insurance claim, with these likely to involve deer, foxes, badgers and dogs...as well as the misdirected squirrel!
Top of the list are deer, especially in November when the mating season kicks off. But this is no laughing matter: the Department of Transport reported last week that eight people were killed in the UK in 2011 as a result of animal-related car accidents, with 450 people being injured from deer-related incidents alone.
In the USA the problem with deer is much, much more severe. State Farm Insurance, one of the US’s biggest car insurance
providers, estimates that there are about 1.09 MILLION deer-vehicle collisions on US roads each year. At an estimated $3,000 of damage per incident, that adds up to a whopping $3 BILLION of damage! And many of these accidents result in personal injuries, sometimes fatal. West Virginia leads the way in deer-vehicle incidents, with over 51 deer-related crashes per 1,000 insured vehicle years.
What’s being done to reduce this problem?
One significant development was unveiled at the recent LA Auto Show, where a Swedish company, AutoLiv, unveiled a sensor-based alert system that is designed to warn night-time drivers of animals in the road. The system, already in limited use to help reduce injuries to pedestrians, uses algorithms and thermal imagery infrared cameras to give drivers advance warning of animals in the road. Indeed, the US Highway Loss Data Institute estimates that the roll out of these on-board sensor systems in 2013 and beyond will lead to a significant reduction in fatal and serious road casualties.
Meanwhile, back in the UK, we’d like to remind all motorists to take special care when driving through wooded areas, particularly at dawn and dusk when deer are most likely to be active
Be safe this Christmas!