There’s a difference between book smart and bar smart. You may not be book smart, but this series can make you seem educated and interesting from a barstool. So, belly up, mix yourself a glass of LMNT Recharge, and take notes as we look at the states you’re most likely to hit a deer with your vehicle. Powered by LMNT.
Some conspiracy theorist-hunters would have you believe that insurance companies have been colluding with state agencies for decades to promote the spread of chronic wasting disease. Their supposed goal is to lower deer populations in an effort to create fewer deer-vehicle collision insurance claims. If this were true, then they’re doing a pretty damn poor job.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, deer-vehicle collisions have been on the rise since 1975. Accidents leveled off in recent years, with an all-time high 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions causing $1 billion in damage in 2018. These accidents kill 200 motorists and injure 10,000 more each year. (There’s no nationwide data available for the deer involved, but states account for it heavily in population estimates.)
Overall, the average U.S. driver has a 1 in 116 chance of hitting a deer with their vehicle each year. To put that in perspective, you have a 1 in 100 chance of being ambidextrous, 1 in 119 chance of falling to your death, and 1 in 160 chance of being audited by the IRS.
Your odds of being involved in a deer accident greatly vary based on what state you’re in, though. In West Virginia, 1 in 38 motorists hit deer. In Hawaii, it’s 1 in 6,379. That’s comparable to the odds of being called to “Come on down!” from The Price is Right audience (1 in 36) or hitting a hole-in-one on a par 3 (1 in 6,000).
The top 10 states for deer collisions are:
- West Virginia (1 in 38)
- Montana (1 in 48)
- Pennsylvania (1 in 52)
- South Dakota (1 in 54)
- Iowa (1 in 55)
- Wyoming (1 in 56)
- Wisconsin (1 in 57)
- Michigan (1 in 60)
- Mississippi (1 in 61)
- Minnesota (1 in 64)
You might think this list is just based on deer per square mile stats, but that’s not the case. Mississippi has the highest deer density in the country, but barely cracked the top 10 for car accidents. Indiana has the fifth most deer per square mile but is 23rd in deer-vehicle collisions. West Virginia and Montana aren’t in the top 10 for deer density but claim first and second in deer accidents.
There’ isn’t much of a correlation between human population and accidents, either. If you look at the bottom three states for deer-vehicle collisions, you’ll find Hawaii, California, and Nevada. Those states rank 40th, 1st, and 32nd in population, respectively. So, the sheer number of people living in a state doesn’t play a role.
But, what does matter is where folks live. For the top six states in deer-vehicle collisions, more than half of the population lives in a rural area (defined by the United States Census Bureau as an area with less than 50,000 people). There are only 15 states where 50% of residents live in rural places, and over half of them are in the top 10 for deer collisions.
As far as timing, we’re coming up on the worst of it. According to Justin Mathiason, owner of Al’s Body Shop in 4th-ranked South Dakota, October and November are when he sees the most deer accidents.
“Crop harvest and the rut are the two big events,” Mathiason said. “When we have corn start to come out of fields like it is right now, we get a ton of accidents. And then every November is predictably bad. When those bucks start chasing in a few weeks, we’ll expect another surge of repairs.”
So, be extra vigilant while driving these next couple of months if you live in one of those states. There’s good reason that the last thing a Midwest mom says before you leave home is “watch for deer” instead of “I love you.” Like us, she just wants you to fill tags with your .270 instead of your 1500.
Feature graphic via Hunter Spencer.