Road Patrol: WV drivers have highest risk for animal collisions in the nation

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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Crashes between motor vehicles and animals happen in every state and all year long, yet data confirms that the most dangerous months for animal collisions are November, October and December, in that order.  

I-79

Last year, West Virginia saw more than 30,000 animal collisions according to State Farm analysts. 

“In many instances, you have animal collisions the occur because of dogs or it can be because of rodents like raccoons and squirrels that cause you to veer your vehicle out of control,” Dave Phillips, a State Farm spokesperson said. 

Pennsylvania is number one for the total number of accidents caused by animal collisions. But in terms of risks for an animal collision, West Virginia is number one. Every time a driver takes the road in West Virginia, they have a 1 in 37 chance of an animal collision accident. West Virginia is followed by Montana, where the chance of hitting an animal is 1 in 39, which grew 17% since the previous period. Then comes South Dakota, where the chance of hitting an animal is 1 in 48, followed by Michigan and Pennsylvania both, with 1 in 54 chances. 

The primary animals that cause those accidents are deer. A good way to prevent deer collisions is to simply slow down.  

Deer

“Because many times an animal collision results in that animal’s death, this type of accident is particularly unsettling for drivers,” Kimberly Sterling, Operations Vice President P&C Claims at State Farm said. “Scanning the road while we drive, as well as slowing down, is very important, not only when driving close to wildlife in rural areas for example, but also in our own residential neighborhoods, where pets abound.” 

“The slower that you’re going should you hit a deer, there’s less damage and less likely there’s going to be injury,” Phillips said. “But if you’re going at a higher rate of speed, that collision may not just cause damage to your vehicle but injury to yourself that could also catapulted and cause damage to other vehicles or by swerving, you could be swerving into incoming traffic.” 

Some drivers turn to deer deterrent items like deer whistles to put on their car and ward off the deer, but Phillips said they aren’t proven to work and can give drivers a false sense of hope.  

“If you think you have something that’s a deterrent you may be amp to speed up more or not pay as close attention to the roadways, but unfortunately, there is no scientific data to substantiate that they work,” Phillips said. “Really what it just comes down to is just common sense driving and paying attention to the speed limits.”  

Phillips said one of the reasons why animal collisions are up in the months of October, November and December is because of mating season. In this time, deer are more active and go closer to the roads.  

Some roads have deer crossing signs; these mean the area is prone to high deer activity so drivers should be more alert.  Drivers should also watch out for deer at two specific times of the day. 

Deer crossing sign

“Dusk and dawn is primary when they’re the most active,” Phillips said. “They’re also going to be feeding around that time, so they may go closer to the roadway for some more what would be considered choice vegetation that grows along the roadways… Scan the prefrail of the roadway and make sure that you’re using your high beams if possible to have that much prefrail on the road.”  

Regardless of the roadway, whether it’s a back road or highway, Phillps said the risk is always there. 

State Farm compiled a list of 10 tips that could help drivers reduce the odds of hitting an animal.  

  • Reduce distractions. Put the cell phone away. It can help you avoid injuring motorcyclists, bicyclists, pedestrians and animals, too. 
  • Slow down, especially if you see an animal close to the road. 
  • Stay alert. Scan the road for animals day and night, both in the countryside and in the city. 
  • Pay attention to “deer crossing” and other animal signs. They are there for a reason. 
  • Be aware of peak season. Deer crashes happen most often during October through December, which is hunting and mating season. 
  • Be mindful of meal time. Watch for animals on the road between dusk and dawn. 
  • Watch for herds. If you see one deer, there are probably more nearby. 
  • Use high beams. Flicking your high beams on a deer may cause the animal to scurry away. 
  • If you can’t avoid hitting the animal, brake as necessary, maintain control of your vehicle and don’t veer off the road. 
  • Speak with your insurence agegent about coverage for animal collisions

If you do hit a deer pull over, make sure you are safe then call the police and take pictures of the car to use for insurance purposes.  

Deer collisions are covered under the comprehensive portion of auto policies, but if drivers just have liability of minimal coverage, then the deer collisions may not be covered. 

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