WASHINGTON -- Many fatalities that occur when vehicles strike animals, such as deer and moose, can be prevented if motorists buckle up and those on motorcycles wear helmets, an insurance group said Thursday.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety examined 147 police reports on vehicle-animal collisions and found that in fatal crashes in nine states, 60 percent of victims were not wearing seat belts. In fatal motorcycle crashes, 65 percent of victims were not wearing helmets.
Fatal crashes involving animals have gone up since the mid-1990s, government figures show. In 2003, there were 201 fatal crashes, a 27 percent increase over 2002.
Reports studied by the insurance group accounted for about a third of fatal vehicle-animal collisions in the United States.
"A majority of the people killed in these crashes weren't killed by contact with the animal," said Allan Williams, the group's chief scientist. "As in other kinds of crashes, safety belts and motorcycle helmets could have prevented many of the deaths."
Many deaths occurred when vehicles ran off the road or riders fell off their motorcycles.