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The Drive: What are the odds of hitting a deer? 1 in 77 in Minnesota

October 8, 2018

Fall is when the deer and the antelope get a lot more active, shall we say. And guess what? They dont always heed advice about not playing in the street.

Minnesota is one of the riskiest places in the country for motorists when it comes to colliding with deer and other large animals such as moose or elk. With the odds of hitting a deer at 1 in 77, Minnesota came in as the seventh most likely place in the United States for a motor vehicle crash involving a deer, according to State Farm Insurances 16th annual deer-vehicle collision study. Thats actually down from 1 in 74 last year.

State Farm projects it will process about 44,000 claims from Minnesota drivers involved in mishaps with a buck or doe this year, with nearly half of those coming between October and December. The average repair bill is spendy: $4,341, the Nebraska-based insurer said.

With this being prime season for car-deer crashes, Farmers Insurance recently asked Americans what they would do if they encountered a deer on the road. About two-thirds said they would try to stop short or swerve to avoid hitting an animal to minimize damage.

Thats not what safety experts advise.

Its human nature to want to avoid accidents, but we dont want to swerve, because that could create a bigger risk or harm, said Jim Taylor, head of claims compliance for Farmers Insurance. By swerving, you could hit a pole, a tree or another vehicle and have damage that might not have happened.

Slamming on the brakes is another natural reaction, but thats not advisable either if other traffic is in the area, he said. While one driver may see the hazard, those coming from behind might not, and that sets up the potential for a serious wreck. Taylor advises gradually slowing down and staying in ones lane.

Experts suggest drivers stay close to the center of a road to give themselves as much time as possible to react should a deer cross in front of them. They suggest using high beams except when there is oncoming traffic, wearing seat belts and eliminating distractions so eyes are constantly scanning the road. Drivers should not rely on fences or reflectors to deter deer.

Overall, the odds of a motorist striking an animal anywhere in the United States are 1 in 167, according to State Farms analysis. The odds were calculated from claims data and state licensed driver counts from the Federal Highway Administration. For the 12th straight year, West Virginia had the dubious honors as the state where drivers have the highest probability of hitting a deer, with chances at 1 in 46. Montana came in at No. 2, followed by Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Iowa. Hawaii drivers have the lowest odds at 1 in 6,379.

Keeping bike lanes clean

Minneapolis is in the fourth year of a five-year effort to build more protected bike lanes, and with that comes the job of keeping them clear of debris. To do that, the city this spring bought a specialized vacuum sweeper for $200,000 from Ravo, a company based in the Netherlands, where they know all about biking.

The city uses its standard street sweepers on protected bike lanes with a double width, but needed something nimbler to get in narrow lanes separated from traffic with curbs, medians or flexible white posts, said Mike Kennedy of the citys Public Works Department.

As the inventory of bike lanes grows, we need to look at different equipment, he said. Its our job to maintain them.

Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.

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