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Driving Today

Are the Deer Getting Smarter?

Collisions between vehicles and deer drop again, prompting some to ask if the animals have a positiv...

Who says there’s no good news these days? For the third consecutive year, the number of vehicle collisions that involve deer has dropped, and the downturn is accelerating. Using its claims data as a guide, State Farm has estimated that there were 1.09 million collisions between deer and vehicles in the U.S. between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011, the fiscal year for deer. The most recent estimated total is 9 percent less than three years ago, and 7 percent less than one year ago.

So are the deer getting smarter? Do they now sense when a car is approaching at (literally) breakneck speed? The study didn’t attempt to solve that question, but it did examine which states experience the most deer-related collisions and the trends in those areas. Pennsylvania is the leading state in such collisions, with 101,299 occurring in the aforementioned 12-month period. Michigan is second on the list of states, with 78,304 deer-vehicle collisions. Among those states in which at least 2,000 deer-related collisions occur per year, Vermont, Michigan, West Virginia and Connecticut experienced the largest one-year percentage declines. In Michigan alone, there were 23,000 fewer altercations involving deer.

For the fifth year in a row, West Virginia is the state in which a driver is most likely to run into a deer. Using its claims data in conjunction with state licensed driver counts from the Federal Highway Administration, State Farm says that the chances of a West Virginia motorist striking a deer over the next 12 months is 1 in 53 -- an improvement over a last year, when the odds were 1 in 42. Iowa remained second on the list: The likelihood that a licensed driver will run into a deer in that state is 1 in 77. South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Montana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wyoming round out the top 10. The state in which deer-related collisions are least likely to happen is Hawaii, with a 1 in 6,267 chance.