Monday, September 28, 2009

USA News: Deer Crash Risks for 2010

West Virginia drivers lead the U.S. in collisions with deer for the third straight year as a larger population of the animals meets increasing traffic in once-rural areas, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. said.

One in every 39 drivers in West Virginia is likely to hit a deer in the next 12 months, State Farm said today. The probability was 1 in 45 in last year’s study. Michigan ranked second, with odds of one in 78, according to State Farm claims data and motor vehicle registration counts from the Federal Highway Administration.

“We see thousands of dollars worth of damage,” said Spyro Nicoloudakis, co-owner of A-1 Body Shop in Charleston, West Virginia. “Everybody, one time or another, has had an experience with hitting a deer.”

Crashes reach their peak from October through December -- deer mating season -- and cause more than $1 billion in vehicle damage annually, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said in a separate study. Urban sprawl and limits on hunting contribute to the increase, wildlife specialists said.

“You have deer that are very actively seeking each other out and competing with each other for mates,” said John Niewoonder, big game specialist at Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources. No matter the time of year, “you have more roads and more people driving around,” he said.

Michigan is combating the problem by advising motorists not to “veer for deer.” People can put themselves at greater risk when they try to avoid hitting the animals, said Bob Felt, a spokesman for the state’s transportation department.

‘Brake Firmly’

“They end up going off the road and hitting a fixed object like a tree or a pole,” Felt said. “They get more seriously injured than they would have. To prevent fatalities and reduce injuries, we ask people to hold on to the steering wheel and brake firmly and come to a controlled stop.”

Hunting restriction in populated regions mean deer are growing more common in suburban areas, said Paul Curtis, an associate professor at Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources.

“Deer are in those areas to start with, and they have low mortality because they are not hunted,” he said. “Adult does are having twins and occasionally triplets, so the population can increase pretty rapidly.”

Source: Bloomberg

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