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Car-deer crashes
Where are you most likely to hit a deer?
1. West Virginia – 1 in 41
2. Montana – 1 in 65
3. Iowa – 1 in 73
4. South Dakota – 1 in 74
5. Pennsylvania – 1 in 76
10. Michigan – 1 in 91
22. Ohio – 1 in 134
33. Indiana – 1 in 218
49. Nevada – 1 in 1,054
50. Arizona – 1 in 1,337
51. Hawaii – 1 in 6,753
Source: State Farm Insurance

Car-deer collisions decrease in Indiana

Hunting changes, awareness cited in falling trend

– One was struck just before midnight last month at Crescent Avenue and Broyles Boulevard near IPFW, according to Fort Wayne police records.

Another was reportedly lying in the middle of Interstate 69 two days later.

Two more were struck in the city Sept. 23, and another was hit on Ardmore Avenue about 8 p.m. Sept. 30.

Now that farmers’ harvest season is coinciding with deer mating and deer hunting seasons, crashes like the ones described above are expected to spike, as they do around this time every year.

But there is a bright side.

Data from the state and an insurance company seem to suggest that deer-and--vehicle collisions statewide have been on a downward trend for the past few years.

Reasons for that are hard to pinpoint and are mere speculation, but despite the trend, drivers should be more cautious this fall of the animals running onto the roads.

“With the number of deer and the number of vehicles out there, deer-vehicle accidents will happen,” Chad Stewart, a deer research specialist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, said in a statement.

“The best thing drivers can do is take measures to keep them to a minimum.”

Positive changes

In Indiana, nearly half of all vehicle accidents involving white-tailed deer occur between October and December, according to the DNR.

Statewide in 2011, the most recent data available, there were 15,205 deer-related collisions, according to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. That’s down from just below 16,000 in 2010 and more than 16,800 in 2009.

One reason for the decrease could be a change in hunting regulations. The change was designed to target areas of the state where deer densities were greater than desired, according to the DNR.

Under the changed rules, put in place in 2010, hunters in some urban areas were allowed to begin hunting a few weeks earlier than the official start of the hunting season date.

“Some of those changes have been aimed for urban areas where a deer’s biggest threat is a vehicle bumper,” Phil Bloom, spokesman for the DNR, wrote in an email. “Although we have yet to fully realize the full impacts of these rule changes, a reduction in deer-vehicle collisions is a positive trend we hope continues.”

Late last month, State Farm Insurance released the company’s annual survey studying such collisions. Authors of the study looked at deer-vehicle crash claims filed by State Farm drivers and then extrapolated those numbers to include all insured drivers.

According to the data, the likelihood of a collision with a deer has declined 23 percent in Indiana.

In last year’s survey, Indiana ranked 27th. The state now ranks 33rd, with drivers having a 1-in-218 chance of hitting a deer, according to the survey.

“It’s hard to speculate, but we do think part of it is raised awareness,” said Missy Dundov, a State Farm spokeswoman, of the decrease. “We’ve been doing this for 11 years, and in our eyes, the awareness we’ve brought to the topic is making drivers drive safer.”

Remain calm

Sometimes, no matter how safely you drive, hitting a deer might be inevitable. Still, the DNR and Indiana State Police have tips for drivers this season:

•Deer are most active between sunset and sunrise and often travel in groups; if you see one, others are probably around.

•Use high-beam lights when there is no opposing traffic; scan for deer’s illuminated eyes or dark silhouettes along the road.

•Slow your speed drastically if you see a deer, even if it is far away.

•Use caution along woodlot edges, hills or blind turns.

•Watch approaching vehicles and observe what may break headlight beams from those cars – it could be a passing deer.

•Never swerve to avoid hitting a deer; most serious crashes occur when drivers try to miss a deer but hit something else.

Finally, a motorist who has struck a deer is urged to remain calm and not touch the deer. A frightened or wounded deer can cause bodily injury.

“Despite their gentle nature, their hooves are sharp and powerful and can be extremely dangerous,” said Steward, the DNR deer biologist.

Instead, motorists should stay in the car, check to make sure passengers are safe, and then do what they would in almost any other accident: call police.

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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