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What are the chances?

PRINCETON — Illinois drivers may breathe a sigh of relief, but not for too long, when it comes to deer/vehicle accidents.

According to information released Monday by State Farm Insurance, Illinois has seen a 10 percent decline in the number of deer/vehicle crashes in this past year. Drivers in Illinois now have a 1 in 214 chance of hitting a deer this year, compared to last year’s 1 in 162 chance. With these latest numbers, Illinois is now ranked as the 32nd most likely state in which to hit a deer, compared to the 30th most likely state last year.

On Monday, State Farm spokesperson Chris Mullen said the busiest season for deer accidents is just approaching. About 18 percent of all deer/vehicle accidents typically happen in November, with October and December coming in as the second and third busiest months, respectively.

On Monday, Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson said he doesn’t think Bureau County is seeing fewer deer/vehicle accidents, but those accidents certainly increase in the fall and winter months. Overall, deer/vehicle accidents may make up about 50 percent of the accidents investigated by his department.

In addition to the fall and winter months in general, it appears deer are more mobile in the time just prior and during inclement weather, whether it’s rain or snow, Thompson said. With rain expected on Wednesday, he wouldn’t be surprised to hear of deer/vehicle accidents on Thursday.

Looking at preventing deer/vehicle collisions, Thompson said drivers need to remember that deer tend to travel in herds. If a motorist sees one deer, there’s probably another one or more deer coming at them as well.

Also, if an impact with a deer seems inevitable, the driver should not try to swerve the vehicle to get out of the way, which can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle and cause greater damage to the vehicle and the people inside it. Instead, the driver should hold the steering wheel steady and use as much braking as possible.

Basically, drivers need to use caution, drive defensively and to watch for deer, Thompson said. Also, remember that, even if the driver is able to slow down significantly, the deer may still run into the vehicle, he said.

As far as reporting deer accidents to law enforcement, Thompson said the driver needs to report the accident if it appears the damage to the vehicle exceeds $1,500, for insurance purposes.

According to State Farm, nationwide numbers are also declining for deer/vehicle accidents. The chances of any single American motorist striking a deer during the next 12 months is 1 in 174, compared with 1 in 167 the year before. State Farm calculated its statistics based on claims data and state licensed driver counts from the Federal Highway Administration.

For any Illinois resident thinking about relocating to West Virginia, he/she may want to rethink that decision. For the seventh year in a row, West Virginia has led the 50 states in being the most likely place to have a deer/vehicle accident with a 1 in 41 chance. Montana comes in second with a 1 in 65 chance; Iowa has a 1 in 73 chance; South Dakota, a 1 in 75 chance; and Pennsylvania has a 1 in 77 chance. As in previous years, Hawaii ranks the least likely state in which to hit a deer at 1 in 6,787 drivers.

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