For the third consecutive year, the number of deer-vehicle collisions in the U.S. has dropped. And the downturn is accelerating. The percentage decline over the last year is nearly three times as large as during the previous two years combined.
Using its claims data, State Farm, the nation’s leading auto insurer, estimates 1.09 million collisions between deer and vehicles occurred in the U.S. between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011. That’s 9 percent less than three years ago and 7 percent fewer than one year ago.
Among those states that experienced the largest decline, Michigan (23 percent), West Virginia (22 percent), Connecticut (22 percent), Louisiana (19 percent) and Arkansas (18 percent), all states where at least 2,500 deer-vehicle collisions occur per year. There were 23,000 fewer deer-vehicle altercations in Michigan alone. Illinois is down 12 percent.
For the fifth year in a row, West Virginia tops the list of states where an individual driver is most likely to run into a deer. Using its claims data, in conjunction with state licensed driver counts from the Federal Highway Administration, State Farm calculates the chances of a West Virginia motorist striking a deer over the next 12 months at 1 in 53, an improvement over a year ago when the odds were 1 in 42.
Iowa remains second on the list. The likelihood of a licensed driver in Iowa hitting a deer within the next year is 1 in 77. In third, South Dakota (1 in 81), Pennsylvania (1 in 86) is in fourth, and Michigan rounds out the top five (1 in 90).
Montana is sixth, followed by Wisconsin and Minnesota. North Dakota and Wyoming round out the top 10. In eight of the top 10 states (Minnesota and Wyoming are the exceptions), the rate of deer-vehicle collisions per driver went down from a year ago. Illinois (1 in 250) is in 32nd place.
The state in which deer-vehicle collisions are least likely is still Hawaii (1 in 6,267). The odds of a Hawaiian driver colliding with a deer between now and 12 months from now are approximately equal to the odds that you are a practicing nudist.
State Farm’s data shows November, the heart of the deer migration and mating season, is the month during which deer-vehicle encounters are most likely. More than 18 percent of all such mishaps take place during the 30 days of November. A confrontation between a deer and a vehicle will occur once every five seconds in the United States in November (roughly equivalent to the time it took you to read this sentence).
Deer-vehicle collisions are three times more likely to occur on a day in November than they are on any day between Feb. 1 and Aug. 31. October is the second most likely month for a crash involving a deer and a vehicle. December is third.
The average property damage cost of these incidents during the final half of 2010 and the first half of 2011 was $3,171, up 2.2 percent from the year before.
Avoiding deer-vehicle collisions
“State Farm has a long history of supporting auto safety,” said Laurette Stiles, State Farm vice president of Strategic Resources. “Calling attention to potential hazards like this one is part of our DNA. While we can’t put our finger directly on what’s causing a decline in deer-vehicle collisions, we’d like to think media attention to our annual report on this subject has had at least a little bit to do with it.”
Following are tips on how to reduce the odds of a deer-vehicle collision involving your vehicle:
• Be aware of posted deer crossing signs. These are placed in active deer crossing areas.
• Remember that deer are most active between 6 and 9 p.m.
• Use high-beam headlamps as much as possible at night to illuminate the areas from which deer will enter roadways.
• Keep in mind that deer generally travel in herds — if you see one, there is a strong possibility others are nearby.
• Do not rely on car-mounted deer whistles.
• If a deer collision seems inevitable, attempting to swerve out of the way could cause you to lose control of your vehicle or place you in the path of an oncoming vehicle.
From the Nov. 2-8, 2011, issue