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Deer, oh deer, oh deer

PRINCETON — Bureau County drivers had better get prepared for the next few weeks.

According to data collected by State Farm Insurance, the month of November continues to be the most dangerous month of the year for deer/vehicle collisions, with more than 18 percent of deer/vehicle collisions occurring in November, followed in frequency by October and December. Deer/vehicle collisions are three more times likely to occur in the one month of November than in the February through August time period.

In a statement issued by Chris Mullen, director of technology research for State Farm, West Virginia is the most prolific state in the country when it comes to deer/vehicle collisions, an “honor” which West Virginia has held for the past six years. A driver in West Virginia has a 1 in 40 chance of being involved in a deer/vehicle collision during the next 12 months.

Following West Virginia as prolific deer/vehicle collision states are South Dakota, where drivers have a 1 in 68 chance of hitting a deer; followed by Iowa with a 1 in 71.9 chance of hitting a deer; Michigan, with a 1 in 72.4 chance; and Pennsylvania, with a 1 in 76 chance of hitting a deer. In each of the top five states, the rate of deer-related collisions per driver went up from a year ago.

Coming as a probable surprise to most Bureau County drivers, Illinois comes in the middle, at 26th of the 50 states, when it comes to the number of deer/vehicle collisions. At the other end of the spectrum, the safest state when it comes to deer/vehicle accidents is Hawaii, where a driver has a 1 in 6,801 chance of hitting a deer.

State Farm based its informational report on claims data and state licensed driver numbers from the Federal Highway Administration.

Looking at local statistics, Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson said he doesn’t think the number of deer crashes have declined any in recent years, but he did not have local statistics before him.

Deer/vehicle accidents not only cause potential damage to people and the animal, but also extensive and costly property damages, the sheriff said Monday.

Looking at the whole issue of deer/vehicle collisions, Thompson said there are some safety, defensive measures which drivers should take into consideration, especially this time of the year.

For one thing, people need to realize deer tend to travel in herds, Thompson said. If a motorist sees one deer, there’s probably another one or more deer coming at them as well, he said.

Also, if an impact with a deer seems inevitable, the driver should try not to react too quickly and swerve to get out of the way, which can often cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle and cause greater damage, the sheriff said.

As far as the most common time of day for seeing deer, Thompson said deer most frequently travel around dusk and dawn, but he’s seem them crossing the interstate in the middle of the day.

Concerning the use of vehicle-mounted deer whistles, Thompson said he’s not so sure how well they work, but he does have one on his motorcycle.

“But basically, I would tell drivers to use caution, drive defensively and to watch for deer,” Thompson said. “But remember they aren’t as intelligent as people and they do tend to run into vehicles. Sometimes there’s no way to avoid an accident.”

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