A motorist in Virginia over the course of a year has a one in 94 chance of striking a deer, although the odds are undoubtedly higher in Rappahannock County, where a familiar refrain is who hasn’t struck one of the animals?
While Virginia doesn’t rank in the top 10 states for the potential of a vehicle running into a deer (or more accurately a deer running into a vehicle) it comes as close as you can get — ranked No. 11, which gets it listed as a “high-risk” state.
And it’s getting worse: Virginia was ranked 13th in 2016. The new 2017 rankings are contained in the 15th annual State Farm study, which examines data from the entire insurance industry and Federal Highway Administration.
Our neighbor West Virginia has the most deer-car collisions of late, followed by Montana, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, Michigan, North Dakota and Virginia.
Deer mating season — not hunting season — “more than doubles” the likelihood of deer-car collision, according to the study, so drivers are encouraged to be especially alert during the months of October, November and December. Pay particular attention between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
“Whether you hit a large animal, or it jumps into the side of your vehicle, such collisions can cause significant injuries and property damage,” the study states. “Keep your eyes up and focused on the road. This helps you take action in the event a deer is suddenly in your path.”
Some other tips to help keep drivers safe:
— Slow down, particularly at dusk and dawn.
— If you see one deer, be prepared for more deer to cross the road.
— Use your high beams to see farther, except when there is oncoming traffic.
— Brake if you can, but avoid swerving. This can result in a more severe crash.
— Remain focused on the road.
— Avoid distractions, such as eating or looking at cell phones.
While there are no exact figures, there are about 1.5 million accidents with deer each year in the United States. The leading cause of human injuries and death is when the motorist swerves to avoid striking the deer. As a result, there are an average of 150 human fatalities and 10,000 personal injuries annually.
The average national insurance claim cost for car-deer collisions from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017 was $4,179 — up from $3,995 the previous year period. The estimated cost exceeds $1 billion annually.