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6 Safety Tips to Help Avoid Expensive Claims This Fall

Children playing in fall leaves
This fall, whether you're out and about or snuggled inside with a mug of tea, you want to stay safe. Though we know that accidents can happen at any time, it turns out that certain types of accidents and incidents tend to spike in the fall—and it just may surprise you what they are.

Here are six tips for staying safe and avoiding expensive claims this fall.

1. Watch for deer

If you live in a wooded area, deer may feel ever-present. But November is mating season for deer, which means they are even more likely to be wandering across roadways. In fact, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, deer are number one on the list of the top five animals you're most likely to hit with your car. (Raccoons, dogs, turkeys and coyotes round out the list.)

Car and Driver magazine recommends that if you see an animal in the road, brake in a straight line and do not swerve. If you veer out of your lane, you may wind up hitting another car or an object like a tree, or you might even roll your car.

Also, remember that road signs that warn of deer (or other animals) are there for a reason. It's never a bad idea to slow down in deer-heavy areas.

2. Be extra mindful of pedestrians and cyclists

Collisions with cyclists tend to go up in the fall. Accordingly to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2 percent of people killed in motor vehicle crashes are bicyclists. One of the reasons collisions may go up in the fall months is that there is less daylight, because Daylight Savings Time ends in November. In fact, IIHS research has found that year-round Daylight Savings Time could help prevent collisions with pedestrians and cyclists. Dusk is a dangerous time, so practice extra caution when driving during the darker months.

3. Wear a bike helmet

If you are the cyclist, wear a helmet. Period. The majority of bicyclists killed in crashes die of head injuries. IIHS reports that wearing a helmet has been estimated to cut down the odds of getting a head injury by 50 percent. If you don't have a helmet, or your helmet is getting worn, fall is a splendid time to buy a new one.

4. Park smart

As the weather cools, we tend to see more claims for incidents like broken side mirrors and parking lot damage. While there is only so much you can prevent, it's extra important to be aware of your surroundings in the fall and winter and, most notably, where you park. Always check what's above you and around you before you leave your car (no dangling icicles!).

5. Train your pup

We often see dog bite claims increase in the fall. Dog bites aren't just dangerous—they're also expensive. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average cost per dog bite claim has gone up 134 percent from 2003 to 2019. This is because of increased medical costs, combined with the trend of larger settlements given to plaintiffs. About 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, with 800,000 needing medical attention for dog bites. Half of those are children.

What can dog owners do? Socializing your pet, always using a leash in public, educating yourself and your children about dog safety, and paying close attention to situations that have the potential to escalate (a dog that is sleeping, eating, playing, not feeling well or protecting her puppies) can help, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

6. Take care of rodents, bats and other creatures in the house

Animals like mice and bats are frequent fall and winter guests. Attics are a favorite nesting spot for bats, and mice are always looking for a food source—whether it's food you have stored in the basement or your cat's bowl of food in the kitchen. Though homeowners' insurance policies differ on what they cover, we do see animal-related claims go up in the cooler months.

Rats and mice are trouble because they make messes, build nests and chew through anything and everything, including insulation and wires. Make sure to seal up holes inside and outside with steel wool. (The Centers for Disease Control has more tips for preventing infestations.)

Bats do less damage, but their droppings can be dangerous and cause respiratory issues, particularly for children. Your best move is to call a bat removal service. They won't kill the bats. Rather, they will make it so that when the bats fly out, they can't fly back in.