Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- One in 53 drivers in West Virginia will probably hit a deer in the next 12 months as motorists navigate roads that wind through forests, according to State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.
The state had the highest rate of such collisions in the 12 months ended June 30, according to a statement today from Bloomington, Illinois-based State Farm, the largest U.S. auto insurer. West Virginia was the most crash-prone state for the fifth straight year, and the latest rate compares with 1 in 42 in last year’s report, according to the company.
“Any time you put a transportation system that allows for high rates of speed going through deer areas, you’re going to have those problems,” Paul Johansen, assistant chief in charge of game management for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said in an interview before the data were released.
The collisions cost an average of $3,171 in property damage nationwide, an increase of about 2.2 percent from a year earlier, State Farm said. The estimated number of U.S. collisions in the 12-month period dropped 7 percent to 1.09 million. October through December is the peak period for the crashes, said Paul Curtis, who teaches wildlife sciences and behavior at Cornell University in New York.
The change in daylight savings time puts morning and evening rush hours at dawn and dusk, when deer are most active, he said. Suburban sprawl, in which more homes are built in deer habitats, contributes to the problem, partly because hunting may be prohibited near houses, he said before the latest report.
“More areas become un-huntable,” Curtis said. “Deer population increases when they’re not hunted, and vehicles become the primary method of population control.”
Iowa is the second-most common state for deer collisions, with 1 in 77 drivers likely to crash, followed by South Dakota with 1 in 81. Hawaii is the state where drivers are least likely to strike deer, with 1-in-6,267 odds.
New York drivers have a 1-in-157 chance of hitting a deer. New Jersey motorists have a probability of 1 in 192, and Connecticut has a frequency of 1 in 415, State Farm said. The insurer’s calculations are based on claims data and driver registration counts from the Federal Highway Administration.
Deer collisions generate about a third of Allen Mansberger’s business at Morgantown, West Virginia-based Allen’s Auto Body. Drivers usually pay $3,000 to $4,000 after an accident with a deer, he said, and the cost can be higher, depending on the car and the intensity of the collision.
“I’ve got an ‘09 Lincoln in there that’s going to be like $10,000,” Mansberger said.
--Editors: Dan Kraut, William Ahearn
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