Massachusetts ranks low in likelihood of deer-vehicle collision

Watch out in West Virginia where the odds are 1 in 40. — Photo courtesy of State Farm

For the sixth year in a row, West Virginia topped the list of states where an individual driver is most likely to run into a deer. Using its claims data and state licensed driver counts from the Federal Highway Administration, State Farm, the nation’s leading auto insurer, has calculated that the chances of a West Virginia motorist striking a deer over the next 12 months at 1 in 40.

State Farm reported that South Dakota is second on the list. The likelihood of a licensed driver in that state hitting a deer within the next year is 1 in 68. Iowa (1 in 71.9) is third. Michigan (1 in 72.4) is a close fourth and Pennsylvania (1 in 76) is fifth. In each of the top five states the rate of deer-related collisions per driver went up from a year ago.

The odds of hitting a deer in Massachusetts are 1 in 525, according to State Farm. However, those odds may drop on Martha’s Vineyard. The Island has a higher density of deer than other parts of the state, according to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

In the last 12 months, October 26, 2011 to October 26, 2012, the Dukes County Communications Center reported 116 deer incidents, supervisor Susan Schofield told The Times.

The state in which deer-vehicle mishaps are least likely is still Hawaii (1 in 6,801). The odds of a driver in Hawaii colliding with a deer between now and 12 months from now are approximately equal to the odds that any one person will be struck by lightning during his or her lifetime.

The number of deer-related collisions in the U.S. has increased by 7.7 percent over the last year. This jump came after a three-year period during which these collisions dropped 2.2 percent.

State Farm estimates that 1.23 million collisions caused by the presence of deer occurred in the U.S. between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012.

Bambi on the bumper

A time period in the fall known as the rut, when bucks become sexually active and pursue does at all hours, poses the most risk.

State Farm’s data shows that November 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, State Farm reported.

Environmental Police Sergeant Mike Camire said that if a Massachusetts resident hits a deer, the driver or passenger in the car may keep the deer, but they must get it tagged.

A vehicle driver who strikes a deer should contact police. Chilmark Police Chief Brian Cioffi said police will make a log entry and complete an accident report, or provide the driver with an accident form, depending on the extent of the damage.

A driver who would like to lower the sting of his or her deductible with some venison for the freezer may keep a road-killed deer.

Chief Cioffi said police will give the driver the option of keeping the deer. “If they do not, we know people who will take it,” he said.

Costly encounters

The average property damage cost of these incidents during the final half of 2011 and the first half of 2012 was $3,305, up 4.4 percent from the year before.

The Insurance Information Institute provided the following tips to reduce the odds of a deer-vehicle confrontation:

Keep in mind that deer generally travel in herds: if you see one, there is a strong possibility others are nearby.

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 pm.

Use high beam headlamps as much as possible at night to illuminate the areas from which deer will enter roadways.

If a deer collision seems inevitable, attempting to swerve out of the way may cause you to lose control of your vehicle or place you in the path of an oncoming vehicle.

Don’t rely on car-mounted deer whistles.