Deer-car collisions mean good business for area body shops

Last updated: October 14. 2013 12:00AM - 2881 Views
ANDREW M. SEDER aseder@timesleader.com

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Ray Rondinella does not hunt, nor would he. Why kill the very animals that help supplement his auto body repair business?

“I like deer,” said Rondinella, who owns Herbie’s Auto Body Shop in Kingston.

And according to a pair of insurance company reports, Rondinella’s business is in a great location.

The chances of a motorist striking a deer in Pennsylvania between July 2013 and June 2014 is one in 77, according to the State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. And AAA Insurance statistics show that Luzerne County ranks fifth in the state in terms of the number of deer versus auto collisions.

This data adds up to a strong likelihood that thanks to deer, local auto body shops will once again be rolling in the dough.

Costly collisions

Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the country in terms of the probability of hitting a deer. Area garages have already started seeing the carnage that deer cause on vehicles, big and small.

“Some have just a dent on the fender or a broken headlight,” said Richie Shewan, owner of Richie’s Auto Body and Paint Shop in Plains Township. “Others it looks like they hit a moose.”

Repairs can range from about $1,000 up to five times that total depending on the type of vehicle and the amount of damage. Shewan said most people should expect to pay between $2,000 and $5,000.

AAA Insurance reports the average amount of a Pennsylvania claim is about $2,030 for crashes where an animal was struck by a vehicle.

While not a hunter himself, Shewan said he finds it amusing when friends of his that do hunt complain that they can’t find any deer.

“All you have to do is drive down the road,” Shewan laughed, “they’ll find you.”

Rondinella said deer aren’t the only wildlife that cause damage to vehicles.

“Turkey, raccoon, bear,” he said. “A turkey can do a lot to your car.”

While only accounting for about five percent of his business, animal collisions are vital to the bottom line of a body shop.

“They’re high profit hits,” Rondinella said.

Jeff Peiffer, owner of Jeff’s Auto Body in Ross Township, said from late October to December he’ll see three to four vehicles a week come in after hitting a deer. That’s twice any many that the average per week the rest of the year.

State statistics

According to The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, in 2012, there were 3,362 reportable crashes statewide involving deer, resulting in eight human fatalities. Reportable crashes are those that involve injury, death or vehicle towing, meaning there are likely much more than that total in which drivers are able to drive away and get repairs.

Tony Ross, owner of Ross Body Shop in Fairview Township, said at this time of year more people are in the woods whether they’re hiking or leaf watching or hunting and it causes the deer to scatter out on to roadways. Rutting season is also a factor in November and bucks can be more aggressive and unpredictable during this time.

While the earlier onset of dusk combined with the deer mating season play a role in the increase in deer strikes, there are other factors, too.

“There’s so much housing now that there’s nowhere for deer to go,” Rondinella said. Couple that with people driving while talking on a cell phone, texting or doing something else that distracts them and it’s a recipe for disaster.

“You just have to be careful,” Rondinella said, adding odds are “you’re still going to hit a deer, and it’s good for my business.”

In some cases, you may hit two deer. And in one case for a local woman, you may hit two in 15 minutes.

That’s what happened to Barb Parri, of Plains Township. About 20 years ago, she struck one deer along Meadow Run Road in Bear Creek Township, was able to keep driving, and struck another one on state Route 115 just 15 minutes later. Neither one crippled the Jeep Grand Cherokee she was driving.

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