The Drive: Don't veer for deer, experts say

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 7, 2013 - 10:20 AM

Like many motorists, I log a lot of miles at this time of year, but I’ve never been too concerned about hitting a deer. A new report out last week by State Farm Insurance indicates that perhaps I should. Maybe we all should.

October and November are the peak months for car-deer collisions, and Minnesota is the sixth most likely place in the nation to strike a deer while driving, according to the insurance company’s analysis of claims data and driver counts from each state provided by the Federal Highway Administration.

Overall, the chances of any one motorist bagging a buck while behind the wheel over the next 12 months is 1 in 174. But in Minnesota, where the Department of Natural Resources estimates there are nearly 1 million deer roaming, the chances are much higher at 1 in 80.

“Deer are not an uncommon sight along our roads, and they tend to do unpredictable things, like stop in the middle of the road, or cross and quickly recross,” said Lt. Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol. “Motorists and [motorcycle] riders need to stay focused on the task at hand, and drive or ride defensively by looking for reflecting deer eyes and silhouettes, especially during lowlight times and in forest and farm areas.”

Over the past three years, there have been 7,484 deer-vehicle collisions in Minnesota, with more than one-third of those occurring in October and November, according to the Department of Public Safety.

They don’t come cheap, either. Nationally, the 1.2 million mishaps collectively cost about $4 billion annually or $3,414 per vehicle.

Nor are they just a rural phenomenon.

With urban sprawl and more roads passing through wildlife habitats, deer are finding their way into the city more frequently. (Remember the buck found along the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis last week?) Last Wednesday, a motorist struck a deer during the morning rush hour on Hwy. 52 at 70th Street in Cottage Grove.

In Dakota County, there were 162 of those types of crashes last year. Hennepin County had 137. Carver County had 102, Washington, 99; Anoka, 68; Ramsey, 52; and Scott, 46.

Roeske and the Insurance Information Institute offer these tips for motorists:

• Don’t veer. Drivers can more easily lose control and swerve off the road or into oncoming traffic. It’s best to apply the brakes, stay in your lane and, if unavoidable, hit the deer.

• Be attentive from sunset to midnight and during sunrise, the highest-risk times for deer-vehicle collisions.

• Drive with caution through deer-crossing zones, in areas known to have a large deer population and in areas where roads divide agricultural fields from forestland. Deer seldom run alone. If you see one deer, others may be nearby.

• Use the high beam on headlights. They better illuminate the eyes of deer on or near the roadway.

• Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors to deter deer. These devices have not been proved to reduce deer-vehicle collisions.

If all that worries you, the islands of Hawaii are calling. The odds of hitting a deer there are a mere 1 in 6,787.

 

Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.

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