Deer-vehicle accidents are most common in autumn.Due to increasing deer populations, deer-related automobile accidents have risen nearly 50 percent in recent years. This is true particularly during the months of October through December, when the likelihood nearly doubles due to increased deer migration, according to a State Farm analysis.

For the ninth year in a row, West Virginia is the state where motorists face the highest risk of hitting a deer, while Hawaii has the lowest risk (one in 8,765). According to a State Farm, one of every 169 motorists in the U.S. will hit a deer over the course of the next year, roughly the same as in 2014.

States With Highest Risk

Changes in deer-auto collision rates reflect things like changing deer population levels as well as the incidence of new or improved roads near deer habitat. The 10 states with the highest risk of hitting a deer are:

  1. West Virginia — 1 in 44
  2. Montana — 1 in 63
  3. Iowa — 1 in 68
  4. Pennsylvania — 1 in 70
  5. South Dakota — 1 in 73
  6. Wisconsin — 1 in 77
  7. Minnesota — 1 in 81
  8. Mississippi — 1 in 88
  9. South Carolina — 1 in 95
  10. Virginia — 1 in 97

The top 10 states for deer-auto collisions stayed the same as in 2014, just in a slightly different order. Although nearly 10 percent of the country’s deer collisions occur in Pennsylvania, after taking into account the number of licensed drivers in the state, West Virginia still was No. 1. The odds of hitting of deer in Colorado remain relatively low at 1 in 304. The financial consequences of hitting a deer can run anywhere from $1,600 to $3,600, depending on the circumstances of the collision.

Tips to Avoid Hitting a Deer

Some ways to lower your odds of hitting a deer on the highway (and what to do if you hit one) include:

  • Watch for deer between sunset and midnight, and during the hours before dawn, when they are most active.
  • Be sure to slow down in marked deer-crossing areas.
  • Deer move in groups, so if you see one, others are likely to be close by.
  • When there is no oncoming traffic, use high beams when driving at night in areas deer are known to frequent.
  • If a deer is frozen in your headlights, honk the horn in a long, sustained manner.
  • Deer whistles and roadside reflectors are not proven to be effective, so don’t rely on them.
  • Always wear your seat belt.
  • If you aren’t able to avoid hitting a deer, brake, avoid swerving, and stay in your lane to keep from endangering other vehicles.
  • If you hit a deer, don’t touch the animal, as it may hurt you or further injure itself.
  • If you hit or are hit by a deer, notify the police immediately.
  • Don’t forget to take pictures of the accident scene and damage to your vehicle to submit as part of your insurance claim.

No matter where you live, it’s important to practice safe driving habits and watch out for animals, especially deer, on the road.

Image by Shelly Flanagan, under Creative Commons license.

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