South Dakota third on list for deer-vehicle accidents

Posted October 18, 2011 at 4:13 pm


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.

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Deer are plentiful on Hand County roads. Soybean and corn harvest have pushed many deer and other wildlife out of the fields and on to the roads. Photo by Jaimi M. Lammers | The Miller Press

Using its claims data, State Farm Insurance, estimates 1.09 million collisions between deer and vehicles occurred in the U.S. between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011. That’s nine percent less than three years ago and seven percent fewer than one year ago.

Among those states in which at least 2,500 deer-vehicle collisions occur per year, Michigan (23 percent), West Virginia (22 percent), Connecticut (22 percent), Louisiana (19 percent) and Arkansas (18 percent) experienced the largest one-year percentage declines. There were 23,000 fewer deer-vehicle altercations in Michigan alone. Michigan is second on the list of states with the highest total number of these collisions (78,304), well behind Pennsylvania (101,299).

In South Dakota, the estimated number of deer-vehicle collisions is down six percent from last year.

Where are deer-vehicle collisions most likely?

For the fifth year in a row, West Virginia tops the list of states where an individual driver is most likely to run in to 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 one in 53, an improvement over a year ago when the odds were one in 42.

Iowa remains second on the list. The likelihood of a licensed driver in Iowa hitting a deer within the next year is one in 77. South Dakota (one in 81) moves up one place to third. Pennsylvania (one in 86) jumps two places to fourth. Michigan (one in 90) drops from third to fifth.

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.

The state in which deer-vehicle collisions are least likely is still Hawaii (one 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.

When do deer-vehicle collisions occur?

State Farm’s data shows that 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. Deer-vehicle collisions are three times more likely to occur on a day in November than they are on any day between February 1 and August 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.

Here are tips on how to reduce the odds of a deer-vehicle collision involving your vehicle becoming part of the story we tell next year:

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.