Pa. again tops in deer crashes
State College, Pa. — Many Pennsylvania hunters complain about deer numbers being too low, but the Keystone State led the country in vehicle-deer collisions again in a recent study.
Motorists hit 115,571 deer on commonwealth roadways between July 1, 2011, and June 30 of this year, according to estimates from the nation’s leading automobile insurance company.
State Farm used its own claims data and state licensed driver figures to compile the statistics.
Behind Pennsylvania, Michigan came in second in collisions with deer over the same period, with 97,856, and northern neighbor New York was third with drivers striking 80,262 whitetails there.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission does not compile similar statistics. Agency wildlife biologists said it’s difficult to get an accurate figure because many vehicle-deer collisions go unreported.
While Pennsylvania motorists hit thousands of whitetails on the state’s roadways, your odds of striking a deer in the Keystone state are 1 in 75.6. That figure, based on the numbers of licensed drivers in the state and the number of deer struck, ranks fifth in the nation.
For the sixth year in a row, West Virginia topped the list of states where a motorist is most likely to run into a deer. State Farm’s data calculated the chances of a West Virginia motorist striking a deer over the next 12 months at 1 in 40, compared with 1 in 48 the year before.
South Dakota moved from third to second on the list. The likelihood of a licensed driver in that state hitting a deer within the next year is 1 in 68. Iowa (1 in 71.9) dropped from second to third, while
Michigan (1 in 72.4) was a close fourth, up from fifth in last year’s report.
Pennsylvania dropped one spot to fifth.
In each of the top five states, the rate of deer-related collisions per driver went up from a year ago.
Many Pennsylvania hunters have over the years insisted that the Game Commission makes its deer-management decisions based on heavy lobbying from the auto insurance industry.
But Commissioner Ralph Martone, of Lawrence County, president of the board of commissioners, dismissed those contentions.
“I can definitively say that Game Commission staff make decisions about deer management without influence from auto insurers,” he said.
“In fact, in the years I’ve been on the board, I have never been contacted by an auto insurance representative, and I don’t know of any other commissioner who has.”
Martone added that insurance companies doing business in Pennsylvania factor deer into their premiums, passing the cost of those auto/deer collisions to their customers.
State Farm did not provide information about where in Pennsylvania deer-vehicle collisions occurred, but based on where dead deer are most frequently seen along roadways, it is expected the majority occur in urban areas.
“I would be curious to see if their numbers show a drop in auto/deer incidences in areas our hunters are complaining about while other areas are increasing,” Martone added.
Commissioner Dave Putnam, of Centre County, thinks the stories about mysterious connections between insurance companies and the Game Commission are amusing.
“The PGC/insurance company link is an urban legend, that ranks with Sasquatch and Elvis sightings,” he said.
“I would suggest that your newspaper consider a piece on urban legends of the Pennsylvania outdoors. Every state wildlife agency has the same issues.”
State Farm’s data showed the number of deer-related collisions in the U.S. increased by 7.7 percent over the last year. That jump came after a three year period during which deer-vehicle collisions declined 2.2 percent.
State Farm estimates 1.23 million collisions caused by deer occurred in the U.S. between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012.
November is the month in which deer-vehicle encounters are most likely. More than 18 percent of all such mishaps take place during the 30 days of November, the prime breeding time for whitetails. That leads to greater movement and activity among deer.
Deer-vehicle collisions are three times more likely to occur on a day in November than they are on any day between Feb. 1 and Aug. 31, according to the data. October is the second most likely month for a crash involving a deer and a vehicle, while December is third.
The average property damage cost of these incidents during the final half of 2011 and the first half of 2012 was $3,305, up 4.4 percent from the year before.