PICKENS COUNTY — South Carolina drivers are just as likely to be involved in a collision with deer as they were last year but the risk for some drivers has more than doubled from two years ago, according to recently released insurance claims data.
In 2010, South Carolina placed in the top 20 states most at risk for deer collisions, coming in at 18th. West Virginia topped the list, where drivers have a 1 in 42 chance of hitting a deer with a vehicle, followed closely by Iowa and Michigan.
By 2012, South Carolina had moved into the top 10 for the first time, going from 18th to ninth in the span of 24 months. West Virginia still held the number one spot, this time followed by Montana. Michigan had dropped to number 10, tied with Virginia.
This year, South Carolina again comes in at number nine, with drivers in the state currently running a 1 in 95 chance of striking a deer on the roadways.
In an annual report on deer strikes compiled by State Farm, the insurance company estimated that the odds drivers across the country will have a claim from hitting a deer is 1 in 169 — the same as it was in 2014.
However, that likelihood more than doubles during October, November and December, when deer collisions are most prevalent. The months of November and December typically see more travelers on the road than any other because of the holidays.
According to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, more than 2,000 deer collisions are reported in South Carolina every year.
“As the state’s human population increases, more people move to the country which increases commuting traffic,” said Charles Ruth, SCDNR Deer/Turkey Program coordinator. “Increases in deer-human encounters should be expected.”
The white-tailed deer was designated the state animal for South Carolina more than 40 years ago and populations are controlled via strictly regulated hunting seasons. Despite being regulated by the state, it is important to note that SCDNR, nor any other state agency, compensates drivers for injuries or damages resulting from deer strikes.
“Sound deer management through regulated annual harvests is the most effective way of curtailing deer-vehicle collisions,” stated Ruth. “But following some common sense rules for driving defensively in deer country will make the trip safer.”
When a deer is spotted a ways in front of the vehicle, SCDNR recommends sounding the horn several times and flipping your headlights on and off (if no oncoming traffic) while slowing down. If the deer is only a short distance from the vehicle, blowing the horn and flicking lights could actually do more harm than good by spooking the deer into running across the road. Drivers are advised that it’s best to just slow down.
As it is common for deer to travel together, if you see one deer crossing a roadway, be wary of more following.
Deer strikes usually involve damage to the vehicle rather than human injuries. However, serious injuries can and do occur if the motorist loses control of the vehicle while swerving to avoid a deer in the road.
According to the SCDNR, if a collision with a deer is imminent, it is best to hit the deer rather than risk potentially losing control of the vehicle and risking serious injury.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.