West Virginia motorists are the most likely in the U.S. to hit a deer for the fourth straight year, according to State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.
Vehicles struck deer 68,561 times in West Virginia in the two years ended June 30 for the highest rate per driver in the U.S., as larger populations of the animals encountered new roads and expanding city limits, State Farm said today in a statement. One in every 42 drivers in West Virginia is likely to hit a deer in the next 12 months, based on claims data and driver registration counts from the Federal Highway Administration last year, the largest U.S. automobile insurer said.
“We have more deer and a lot more people moving into their habitat,” Chris Ryan, supervisor of game management services at the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said in an interview on Aug. 23. “We’re in a state where about 80 percent is forested land. There are a lot of curvy, windy roads going through deer habitats.”
Deer collisions in the two years ended June 30 rose to 2.3 million nationwide. The average property damage per accident climbed 1.7 percent to $3,103, according to Bloomington, Illinois-based State Farm.
About 25 percent of business at auto-body shop Cole Collision Center in Beckley, West Virginia, during mating season comes from deer hits, said manager Robbie Hicks. He’s seen repairs costs as much as $14,000.
“Business picks up in the fall,” he said. “One guy hit a deer coming up on the highway and it damaged his radiator, which caused the car to lose fluid and blew the motor. It’s unavoidable when deer jump out of blind spots. It’s made me more cautious.” Crashes peak in November amid the mating season, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said in a separate study.
Iowa has the second-highest frequency with 1 in 67. Michigan is third. Hawaii is the state where drivers are least likely to strike deer, with a 1 in 13,011 chance.
Urban sprawl contributes to the increase in collisions, said Joshua Millspaugh, professor of conservation at the University of Missouri. Deer can thrive in various surroundings, including urban areas, he said.
“We’re creating perfect habitats for these animals,” he said. “Areas with high human density are typically less hunted and deer populations can explode. These areas have unnatural food sources that are very good for deer. That’s why they’re eating homeowners’ shrubs.”
New York motorists have a probability of 1 in 145. New Jersey drivers have odds of 1 in 183, and Connecticut has a frequency of 1 in 320, State Farm said.
Hunting is the primary tool to manage deer populations, according to Millspaugh. Drivers should be alert during dawn and dusk hours when deer tend to be active, he said.