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Where are drivers most likely to hit a deer? Not California.

October 6, 2010 | 12:01 pm

U.S. map showing likelihood of deer-vehicle collision by state.

For all the negative things that can be said about driving in California, the Golden State does have one thing going for it -- some of the lowest odds of a driver hitting a deer.

In fact, California is third from the bottom of the list of states where a driver is most likely to collide with a deer, with only a 1 in 1,046 chance. The only states with better odds of avoiding such a collision are Nevada (1 in 1,488) and Hawaii, with a 1 in 13,011 chance (roughly equivalent to the odds of finding a pearl in an oyster shell).

Using its claims data in conjunction with state licensed-driver counts from the Federal Highway Administration, State Farm Insurance annually calculates the chances of drivers striking a deer over the next 12 months.

And for the fourth consecutive year, West Virginia tops the list of those states, with a 1 in 42 chance.

Next on the list is Iowa, with the likelihood of a licensed driver striking a deer within the next year at 1 in 67. Rounding out the top 10 is Michigan (1 in 70), South Dakota (1 in 76), Montana (1 in 82), Pennsylvania (1 in 85), North Dakota (1 in 91), Wisconsin (1 in 96), Arkansas (1 in 99) and Minnesota (1 in 100).

State Farm estimated that 2.3 million collisions between deer and vehicles occurred in the U.S. during the two-year period from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2010 -- a 21.1% increase from five years earlier. To put it another way, the insurance company claims that, during your reading of this paragraph, a collision between a deer and vehicle will likely have taken place (such collisions are more likely during the last three months of the year and in the early evening).

"State Farm has been committed to auto safety for several decades and that’s why we want to call attention to potential hazards like this one," said Laurette Stiles, State Farm vice president of strategic resources. "We hope our updated information will inspire motorists to make safe decisions."

The insurance company offers the following tips on how to reduce the chances of a deer-vehicle collision:

-- Be aware of posted deer crossing signs. These are placed in active deer crossing areas.
-- Remember that deer are most active between 6 and 9 p.m.
-- Use high-beam headlamps as much as possible at night to illuminate the areas from which deer may  enter the roadway.
-- Keep in mind that deer generally travel in herds -- if you see one, there is a strong possibility others are nearby.
-- Do not rely on car-mounted deer whistles.
-- If a deer collision seems inevitable, attempting to swerve out of the way could cause you to lose control of your vehicle or place you in the path of an oncoming vehicle.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, deer-vehicle collisions in the U.S. cause about 200 fatalities each year, and the average property damage cost of these incidents was $3,103 -- a 1.7% increase from a year ago.

-- Kelly Burgess

Image: U.S. map showing likelihood of deer-vehicle collision by state. Credit: State Farm Insurance Co.