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A deer stuck in your headlights

November 23, 2011


Ron Wirtz Editor, fedgazette
A deer stuck in your headlights

It’s that time of year again when attention for a significant portion of the population turns to whitetail deer. Most often it’s toward hunting season and dreams of hat racks. But a not-so-small number get an unfortunately close encounter with deer this time of year—with their vehicle.

With high deer populations and significant rural roadway—both a factor in collisions—every Ninth District state ranks in the top 10 in likelihood of hitting a deer over the course of a year, according to estimates from State Farm Mutual Insurance. South Dakota ranks highest in the district at number three (see table below).

Deer crashes -- Table 1 - 11-14-11

Few states closely track the number of vehicle-deer collisions. Wisconsin appears to keep better records than most. The good news is that deer collisions, at least in that state, are trending lower over the past decade in absolute numbers (see Chart 1), and the rate of collisions per vehicle mile has fallen considerably, from about 50 per 100 million miles in 1994 to fewer than 30 in 2010, according to a study by the state’s Department of Transportation. The number of persons killed or injured has also been cut in half, to about 400, over the past decade.

Still, the costs of deer collisions are considerable. In Wisconsin, collisions cost a total of almost $27 million in 2008, according to the Deer-Vehicle Crash Information Clearinghouse at the University of Minnesota. These figures are likely conservative, because the DVCIC included only investigated crashes involving at least $1,000 in property damage (about 15,000 in 2008 for Wisconsin), which are considerably below estimates in that state of both the number of deer killed by vehicles (the blunt force of which is likely to cause considerable damage to a vehicle) as well as insurance estimates of annual deer crashes.

And while you’re out driving, it might pay to know that the majority of deer-vehicle collisions occur during the months of October and November (see Chart 2) when deer are most active during the breeding phase, according to the Wisconsin DOT.

Deer -- chart 1&2 11-14-11

Ron Wirtz
Editor, fedgazette

Ron Wirtz is a Minneapolis Fed regional outreach director. Ron tracks current business conditions, with a focus on employment and wages, construction, real estate, consumer spending, and tourism. In this role, he networks with businesses in the Bank’s six-state region and gives frequent speeches on economic conditions. Follow him on Twitter @RonWirtz.