West Virginia Motorists Still Most Likely to Have a Deer-Car Collision

The number of vehicle crashes nationwide involving collisions with deer fell for the third straight year during the 12 months that ended June 30, according to State Farm Insurance estimates based on claims data.

There were an estimated 1.09 million collisions between autos and deer during that period, a 7 percent drop from the previous year and a 9 percent reduction from 2008-09, according to the insurer.

Deer in fieldState Farm officials said they could not explain the decline, which was steeper in some states than in others.

The estimates come as safety officials nationwide warn motorists about the dangers posed by deer on roadways, particularly in October and November. Authorities say mating and migration patterns make the animals more active during spring and fall, with State Farm data showing that more than 18 percent of deer-vehicle crashes occur in November.

Average property damage costs for deer-involved collisions in 2010-11 was $3,171, the coverage provider found, a 2.2 percent increase from the previous year.

According to State Farm estimates, Vermont saw a 24 percent drop in deer-vehicle accidents during the last fiscal year, while Michigan experienced a 23 percent decrease and Connecticut had 22 percent fewer of those crashes.

The largest number of deer-auto crashes happened in Pennsylvania, which had about 101,300. That was followed by Michigan, where the number of crashes fell by 23,000 to 78,300.

Collisions involving deer fell in eight of the 10 states in which they are most frequent, according to State Farm.

For the fifth consecutive year, West Virginia drivers had the highest odds of running into a deer, with claims data and the number of licensed drivers adding up to a 1-in-53 chance of colliding with a deer at some point during the year.

Hawaiian drivers were by far the least likely to be involved in a deer-vehicle crash, with their odds calculated at 1 in nearly 6,300.

West Virginia’s numbers were an improvement over the previous year, when the odds were 1 in 42.

The statistics appear to support estimates released last year by West Virginia officials. According to a study by state regulators on the economic impacts of deer-vehicle crashes, there were about 25,600 such collisions in the state in 2009.

That was down from nearly 26,300 the previous year. But the costs of those accidents rose from an average $2,140 per claim in 2008 to almost $2,240 the following year.

Statewide losses were estimated at $57.2 million in 2009, up $1 million from the year before.

Officials stressed that the study findings represented only the amounts that were paid by some of the state’s insurers under the comprehensive portion of auto policies and therefore included only a fraction of the total costs associated with such collisions.

Comprehensive coverage, which is not required in any state except as part of a vehicle loan agreement, can cover losses caused by deer and other animals, severe weather and other events.

Industry experts generally advise motorists who live in states such as Pennsylvania—where there are large numbers of deer and other wildlife—to consider including comprehensive on their Pennsylvania auto insurance policies if their vehicles are fairly new or valuable.

About Gregor McGavin
Gregor McGavin is an award-winning journalist who has reported across the country for such publications as The Associated Press, the Arizona Republic, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Press-Enterprise.

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