A thick fog rolls over a rural road in the early morning. A white-tailed deer bounds from the tall grass on one side of the road to a patch of buckweed on the other side.
This isn’t an uncommon sight for rural drivers, especially during deer-mating season, which runs from October to January.
Though deer can be found throughout the country, deer-vehicle collisions are much more common in certain states.
Top 10 states for deer-vehicle collisions
Deer can live in a broad range of habitats, from woodlands and mountains to croplands and pastures. There are, however, 10 states where your odds of hitting a deer are particularly high.
|Worst States for Deer-Vehicle Collisions in 2018|
|1||West Virginia||1 in 38|
|2||Montana||1 in 48|
|3||Pennsylvania||1 in 52|
|4||South Dakota||1 in 54|
|5||Iowa||1 in 55|
|6||Wyoming||1 in 56|
|7||Wisconsin||1 in 57|
|8||Michigan||1 in 60|
|9||Mississippi||1 in 61|
|10||Minnesota||1 in 64|
|Source: State Farm|
Avoiding deer collisions
Deer see the world differently than humans. When light enters a deer’s eye, it passes over the lens and hits the retina. The light then bounces back to the front of the eye and reflects again back to the retina. As a consequence, deer have terrific night vision.
Unfortunately, this ability to take in lots of light is why bright headlights temporarily blind deer.
“People tend to assume that animals see their world just like we do, but that assumption can be deadly,” US Forest Service wildlife biologist Sandra Jacobson said. “Knowing that animals won’t perceive what’s happening—and indeed can’t understand what’s happening—will help us drive more safely.”
Here are some simple steps you can take to help avoid colliding with a deer:
- Stay alert. Pay attention to “deer crossing” and “wildlife crossing” signs. Keep in mind that most deer collisions are most common during October, November, and December. On top of that, most deer collisions happen between dusk and dawn.
- Use your high beams. In addition to illuminating the edges of dark roads, high beams can cause deer to scurry away.
- Stay center. When driving on a multi-lane road, the center lane is your safest bet for avoiding deer.
- Watch for herds. Keep in mind that if you see one deer, there are probably more nearby.
- Don't rely on a deer whistle. Deer whistles emit ultrasonic sounds that are supposed to alert deer and scare them off. Unfortunately, there’s no scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of deer whistles.
What to do if you hit a deer
Even if you do everything you’re supposed to do, accidents still happen. According to the Insurance Information Institute, roughly 200 deaths are caused by deer-vehicle collisions every year. On top of that, deer collisions result in close to $4 billion in property damage every year.
If you hit a deer, try to remain calm. Pull over to the side of the road as soon as it’s safe to do so and turn on your hazard lights. Call emergency services if anyone’s injured or the local police if your vehicle is damaged.
While you may want to help the injured deer, it’s best to keep your distance. An injured deer can be confused and dangerous. Instead of approaching the deer, let emergency responders know about the injured deer.
In most cases, you’ll simply contact your insurance company after a deer-vehicle collision. Most, but not all, car insurance policies cover damages caused by deer. However, if there were other vehicles involved in your accident (perhaps you swerved and struck another vehicle), you may need to contact an attorney to sort out liability issues.