BLOOMINGTON, IL --- The number of vehicles on U.S. roadways has grown by 7 percent over the past five years. But the number of times those vehicles have collided with deer has swelled by much more than that, according to a new study from State Farm.  

Using its claims data, State Farm estimated that 2.4 million collisions between deer and vehicles occurred in the U.S. during the two-year period between July 1, 2007 and June 30, 2009 (100,000 per month). That's 18.3 percent more than five years earlier. To put it another way, one of these unfortunate encounters occurs every 26 seconds, although they are much more likely during the last three months of the year and in the early evening.   

Among the 35 states where at least 7,000 deer-vehicle collisions occur per year (not including the percentage changes in the other 15 states plus D.C. because the lower volume of total collisions makes the percentage changes less credible), New Jersey and Nebraska have posted the largest increases, 54 percent. Kansas is next at 41 percent.  Deer-vehicle collisions have jumped by 38 percent in Florida, Mississippi and Arkansas. Then come Oklahoma (34 percent) and West Virginia, North Carolina and Texas (33 percent). 

For the third year in a row, West Virginia tops the list of those states where a collision with a deer is most likely, for any one vehicle. Using its claims data in conjunction with state motor vehicle registration counts from the Federal Highway Administration, State Farm calculated that the chances of a West Virginia vehicle striking a deer over the next 12 months at one in 39. Such an encounter is even more likely in West Virginia than it was a year ago.      

Michigan remains second on that list. The likelihood of a specific vehicle striking a deer there is one in 78. Pennsylvania (1 in 94) and Iowa (1 in 104) remain third and fourth, respectively. Montana (1 in 104) moved up three places to fifth. 

Arkansas and South Dakota each dropped a spot to sixth and seventh. Wisconsin remains eighth. North Dakota and Virginia round out the top 10. 

The state in which deer-vehicle collisions are least likely is still Hawaii (1 in 9,931). The odds of any one vehicle hitting a deer in Hawaii during the next year are roughly equivalent to the odds of randomly picking a piece of clover and finding it has four leaves.    

The average property damage cost of these incidents was $3,050, up 3.4 percent from a year ago.  

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, deer-vehicle collisions in the U.S. cause more than 150 fatalities each year. 

These collisions are more frequent during the deer migration and mating season in October, November and December. The combination of growing deer populations and the displacement of deer habitat caused by urban sprawl are producing increasingly hazardous conditions for motorists and deer. 

"State Farm has been committed to auto safety for several decades and that's why we want to call attention to potential hazards like this one," said Laurette Stiles, State Farm vice president of strategic resources. "We hope our updated information will inspire motorists to make safe decisions." 

Here are some safety tips:

  • Be aware of posted deer crossing signs. These are placed in active deer crossing areas.
  • Remember that deer are most active between 6 and 9 p.m.
  • Use high-beam headlamps as much as possible at night to illuminate the areas from which deer will enter roadways.
  • Keep in mind that deer generally travel in herds -- if you see one, there is a strong possibility others are nearby.
  • Do not rely on car-mounted deer whistles. 
  • If a deer collision seems inevitable, remember that attempting to swerve out of the way could cause you to lose control of your vehicle or place you in the path of an oncoming vehicle.