The States Where You’re Most Likely to Hit a Deer

most-likely-to-hit-a-deer

Fall is deemed the season of sweaters and pumpkin spice everything. But, it turns out, October brings something else with it — auto accidents involving big game.

That’s right, a new study by insurance provider State Farm found that this time of year is prime time for this type of collision.

“We know there is an increased risk of collision with deer around dawn and dusk, and also during the October-December breeding season,” Chris Mullen, director of technology research at State Farm, said in a press release.

They also discovered that certain states are far more likely to have drivers run into these animals than others. These are the top five states where State Farm found a driver was most likely to file a claim after hitting a deer, elk or moose.

  1. West Virginia (1 in 41)
  2. Montana (1 in 58)
  3. Pennsylvania (1 in 67)
  4. Iowa (1 in 68)
  5. South Dakota (1 in 70)

Contrast these with states like Hawaii, where your odds are 1 in every 18,955 drivers, or even Arizona, with odds at 1 in every 1,175 drivers.

While these odds may be jarring, especially if you’re planning a drive through the mountains to enjoy the fall foliage, don’t be alarmed (or bugled, if you will). No matter your location, State Farm advised drivers to keep your eyes focused on the road and, if you do see the gleam of a big animal looking back at you, to break and avoid swerving if you can.

Methodology

To compile this list, State Farm looked at internal claims data as well as state-licensed driver counts provided by the Federal Highway Administration to determine the chance a single American motorist has of hitting a deer, elk or moose with their car. Data considered was from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, and was reviewed from all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia. It’s important to note that State Farm looked at comprehensive and collision claims only and did not include claims involving policyholders with liability insurance coverage only.

The Cost of Car Insurance

According to State Farm, the average cost of hitting a deer between 2015 and 2016 was $3,995.08. (Oh, deer — yes, I had to do it.) While this number is down from the previous year ($4,135), that’s no subtle amount and you likely don’t want to pass the buck (eh?) along to your credit card.

If you live in an area where you’re more likely to hit a deer with your car, it may be a good idea to talk with your insurance provider to see if damage caused by a collision with a deer is covered by your policy. You may also want to talk with them about different factors that are affecting the cost of your policy, which can include everything from your driving record and value of your car to your age and credit history.

While some states put more of an emphasis on your credit track record than others (in terms of determining your insurance policy rates), it can still be helpful to know where your credit stands if you’re shopping for insurance policies. You can view two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com. If you find your scores aren’t quite where you’d like them to be, look for things that could be dragging them down, like errors on your report (you can read this guide to find out how to dispute these problems).

Image: Pascal-L-Marius

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The Cities With the Safest Drivers in America

safest-drivers-in-us

32,675.

That’s the number of traffic fatalities that occurred in the U.S. in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And it isn’t surprising, not in the least. That’s because the average driver will experience a collision every 10 years, according to Allstate Insurance, and the majority of those accidents (94%) will be preventable.

With stats like these, what’s a good driver to do? Perhaps move to one of the cities that made Allstate’s America’s Best Driver’s Report, released this week.

Between 2013 and 2014, Allstate tabulated the property damage frequency of Allstate insured drivers by comparing the the 200 largest cities from the U.S. Census Bureau.  Suburban areas with less than 100 auto property claims reported between January 2013 and December 2014 were excluded.

To organize its data, Allstate scrutinized various details of customers’ claims, such as the average years between customers’ claims, the number of braking events per 1,000 miles, and its Best Drivers Report Ranking from last year. Some data was culled from AllState’s Drivewise app, which keeps track of a person’s driver behavior and rewards good practices.

Where the Safest Drivers Are 

Brownsville, Texas, topped the list, with an average 14.6 years between claims and the distinction of being the second-top city on Allstate’s Best Drivers Report Ranking in 2015. Here are the other U.S. cities that made the cut:

1. Brownsville, Texas

2. Kansas City, Kansas

3. Madison, Wisconsin

4. Cape Coral, Florida

5. Boise, Idaho

6. Huntsville, Alabama

7. Port St. Lucie, Florida

8. Wichita, Kansas

9. Olathe, Kansas

10. Reno, Nevada

Playing It Safe 

While it helps to live in one of the cities listed above where drivers are clearly more cautious, according to Allstate’s report, it doesn’t hurt to take some steps to play it safer yourself. For starters, you can invest in proper auto insurance, since driving around without coverage is against the law and could ravage your finances if you’re involved in a crash. Your credit plays a key role in determining your rate, so a good place to start would be to see where you stand. (You can view two of your scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.)

Also keep in mind the other factors that influence insurance, such as your history of car insurance — or lack thereof — why you drive and even whether you’re married. You can learn more about the factors that go into your insurance rate here.

Image: Sasa Dinic

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Can You Be Sued for Texting a Driver?

sued-for-sending-text

Text-message senders, beware: U.S. courts are moving ever closer to blaming the sender of a text for car accidents that occur while the recipient is driving and texting back.

How could someone be responsible for an accident caused by a driver when they weren’t even in the car?

I explored this only-in-the-digital-age notion several years ago in the MSNBC series, The Red Tape Chronicles, when a New Jersey man was sued after he texted with a woman around the time he struck another car, causing two sisters to become partially paralyzed. Briefly, the legal theory relies on the notion of “aiding and abetting,” an act that causes harm (a tort) to someone else. The plaintiff’s attorney in that case compared sending a text to a driver to holding a piece of paper in front of a driver’s face causing temporary blindness, which could lead to an accident.

That 2012 case, which gained national attention, was decided in the defendant’s favor, to the delight of critics who found the notion absurd. But while media cameras were focused elsewhere, a New Jersey appeals court left the door wide open for future lawsuits against text message conversation participants outside the car.

Now a Pennsylvania case has opened that door even wider.

A Lawrence County court recently ruled that a plaintiff may proceed with a lawsuit aiming to collect damages from a text sender after the recipient texted and failed to notice a motorcycle rider in front of her slowed to make a turn. The driver, Laura Gargiulo, struck the motorcycle, dragging rider Daniel Gallatin 100 feet to his death. Gargiulo had received texts from both Joseph Gargiulo (relationship unclear from court documents) and Timothy Fend, whom the court describes as a “paramour,” or lover. Both are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Laura Gargiulo pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter in 2014, and served 60 days in jail for Gallatin’s death. Now, the Gallatin estate is suing for damages. Both Fend and Joseph Gargiulo filed objections to being included in the lawsuit, saying no law creates a duty that text message senders can be responsible for the actions of a recipient who is driving. However, Judge John W. Hodge sided with Gallatin’s lawyers, indicating it was possible they could prove later that Joseph Gargiulo or Fend “aided and abetted” violation of the state’s distracted driving laws.

Hodge relied on that New Jersey appeals court ruling in his decision.

“Although not binding on the court here, [that ruling] suggests that the sender of a text message can be liable for sending a message while the recipient is operating a motor vehicle if the sender knew, or had reason to know, the recipient was driving,” Hodge wrote.

The ruling is not a clear finding that texters outside a car can be responsible for accidents caused by a driver; it merely extends the possibility for such a finding a bit farther down the line. In fact, in the New Jersey case cited by Hodge, the court was actually upholding a lower-court finding that a defendant in a similar car crash was not liable — but only because the facts of that case made it difficult to conclude the sender knew the recipient was driving. The appeals court went to great pains to make clear it may fight for a plaintiff in the future.

“We conclude that a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving,” New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division Judge Victor Ashrafi wrote.

Citing that opinion, Judge Hodge merely refused to remove Joseph Gargiulo or Fend from the Gallatin lawsuit, for now. There’s a lot the plaintiff still has to prove. That said, the case should give anyone texting with a driver serious pause. While drivers are ultimately responsible for what their vehicles hit, it’s easy to imagine a situation where a text message sender should have known better. For example, the driver could say, “I’m driving right now,” and if the sender persists in being distracting, say, by sending flirtatious messages, one can imagine a plaintiff’s attorney pursuing the aiding and abetting theory.

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Image credit: Rouzes

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