This is the time of year when deer are on the move, and that spells trouble for drivers. And lest you think car-deer collisions happen only in rural areas, think again.
Last year there were 158 crashes involving motor vehicles and deer in Dakota County, the most of anywhere in the state. Other metro counties were not far behind, with Hennepin County registering 146 crashes, followed by 126 in Carver County, 88 in Anoka County, 82 in Washington County, 63 in Scott County and 38 in Ramsey County, according to numbers from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
Statewide there 2,141 collisions involving deer in 2015, and that number could rise this year if a prediction from State Farm Insurance comes true. The auto insurance giant says 1 in 80 Minnesota drivers will hit or be hit by a deer in the next 12 months, up from 1 in 81 last year. That is twice the national average of 1 in 164 drivers.
Minnesota's large deer population makes for a safety hazard on the road all year long, though those types of crashes are most prominent at dawn and dusk during the prime mating and migration season of October, November and December. With more than 3.3 million licensed drivers, Minnesota motorists will hit deer about 42,200 times over the next year. That ranks the state as the seventh most likely place to hit one.
Even with the increased risk the next few months, "drivers should be engaged, alert and on the lookout at all times, because you never know when you may need to react to a deer or any other obstacle that may suddenly be in your path," said Chris Mullen, director of technology research at State Farm.
The folks at Farmers Insurance concur. They found that more than 55 percent of claims filed in Minnesota during the fall resulted from motor vehicle-deer mishaps, the fifth highest level in the nation.
State Farm said drivers in West Virginia (with 1 in 41 odds) were most likely to be in a vehicle-deer (or elk or moose) crash, followed by Montana, Pennsylvania, Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin. North Dakota came in at No. 11, while Arizona was the least likely place for such a collision to occur based on claims data and licensed-driver counts from the Federal Highway Administration.
'Biggest potential hazard'
Paul Quinn, head of claims customer experience for Farmers Insurance, says drivers need to put away phones and other gadgets to eliminate distractions, slow down to increase reaction time and use high beams (when possible) to see farther ahead. But do not swerve: That can take a motorist into oncoming traffic or off the road, resulting in a more serious crash.
Nationwide, there are more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in 150 deaths, tens of thousands of injuries and more than $1 billion in vehicle damage, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The average cost per claim is about $4,000, according to State Farm. Check your insurance policy; car-deer crashes might be covered under comprehensive insurance.
"The biggest potential hazard drivers should be on the lookout for in fall doesn't have four wheels, it has four legs," Quinn said. "While drivers should always be aware of other cars and pedestrians while they're on the road, the onset of fall means drivers need to be on high alert for animals on and around the road, especially larger animals like deer and elk that can total a vehicle if struck at a high speed."
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