© 2023
NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Smarter Deer? Smarter Drivers? Both? Fewer Being Killed On Roads

<p>Last March: A deer runs across the road in Pittsburg, N.H. </p>
Jim Cole

Last March: A deer runs across the road in Pittsburg, N.H.

The news from State Farm Insurance that "for the third consecutive year, the number of deer-vehicle collisions in the U.S. has dropped," is getting noticed in states where Buck vs. Buick encounters are common and usually don't end up well for either party.

But it was this passage in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story that really caught our eye:

"Local State Farm spokesman Doug Griffith offered a theory, based on his personal observations: The deer are getting smarter.

" 'They seem to be more aware of their surroundings. You see them on the hillsides but you rarely see them close to the road,' he said.

"So the silent creatures are somehow spreading the word among themselves? 'That's what I'm wondering, if they got a newsletter going,' Mr. Griffith said. 'Maybe they're on Twitter.'

"He reported this encounter on a Bethel Park side street recently: A doe crossed the street and waited for her fawn to join her. The fawn stopped and looked both ways before crossing.

" 'Cracked me up,' Mr. Griffith said."

On the more quantitative side of the explanations is this, from the website Property Casualty360.com:

" 'It makes sense to us that during these challenging economic times, drivers in the U.S. are logging fewer miles,' says State Farm spokesman Dick Luedke in an email. 'Everything else being equal, the fewer miles we drive, the fewer deer we hit.

" 'But perhaps not everything else is equal,' he adds. 'Perhaps there is at least one other factor in play. We would like to think that the attention State Farm and others (including the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) have drawn to this issue in recent years has inspired drivers to be more attentive to what they can do to reduce their chances of an encounter with a deer.' "

As for where a driver is most- and least-likely to hit a deer, State Farm says:

-- Hawaii is by far the least-likely place, with a 1 in 6,267 chance.

-- West Virginia remains the most-likely, with a 1 in 53 chance.

According to State Farm, there were 1.1 million deer-vehicle collisions between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011, down 7 percent from the previous year.

By the way, deer and humans are in the midst of some dangerous months. According to State Farm, its data show that:

"November, the heart of the deer migration and mating season, is the month during which deer-vehicle encounters are most likely. More than 18 percent of all such mishaps take place during the 30 days of November.

"Deer-vehicle collisions are three times more likely to occur on a day in November than they are on any day between February 1st and August 31st. October is the second most likely month for a crash involving a deer and a vehicle. December is third."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.