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MailTribune.com
  • One in 323 state drivers may hit a deer

    West Virginia is the worst state to be a driver in deer country, according to insurance company data
  • One out of 323 Oregon drivers can expect to hit a deer with their vehicle, ranking the state in the safest third of states, according to an annual survey of this bumper crop of backwoods fauna.
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  • One out of 323 Oregon drivers can expect to hit a deer with their vehicle, ranking the state in the safest third of states, according to an annual survey of this bumper crop of backwoods fauna.
    Oregon again ranks 35th among states when it comes to deer-vehicle collisions, according to annual claims data calculated by State Farm auto insurance.
    State Farm estimates that 1.09 million vehicles hit deer nationwide between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011. That's down 7 percent from the previous year and 9 percent from three years ago.
    For the fifth year in a row, West Virginia is the worst state to be a driver in deer country — or a deer near a roadway. Claims data and state driver counts show that one out of 53 West Virginia drivers will hit a deer in the next 12 months, but that's down from the 1-in-42 chance tallied a year ago, according to State Farm.
    Iowa is second on the list, with drivers having a 1-in-77 chance of hitting a deer. South Dakota is third with a 1-in-81 chance.
    The state where deer-vehicle collisions are least likely is always Hawaii, where one in 6,267 licensed motorists are projected to hit a deer next year, according to State Farm.
    "The odds of a Hawaiian driver colliding with a deer between now and 12 months from now are approximately equal to the odds that you are a practicing nudist," State Farm stated in a news release this week.
    In the 12-month window studied by State Farm, Oregon's 2.8 million licensed drivers struck 8,809 deer. That's down 12 percent from the previous year.
    Though wildlife biologists have used insurance-company data for estimating animal-vehicle collisions, not all believe what they see.
    Simon Wray, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist who is the agency's liaison with the Oregon Department of Transportation, says animal-vehicle collisions went up 18.3 percent in Oregon between 2004 and 2009.
    Wray says that road building in animal habitat is outpacing our ability to mitigate the impacts, such as a recent project that built underpasses on Highway 97 to give mule deer and other animals safe passage past that roadway.
    Those underpasses, near Sunriver, were dedicated Friday, Wray says.
    Also, special fencing is planned for a stretch of Interstate 5 near Sunny Valley as part of a widening project, Wray says. The fencing is meant to reduce vehicle collisions with Roosevelt elk in the area.
    "We're chipping away at those sorts of problem areas, and things are going to get better there," Wray says.
    Wray suspects that insurance-company numbers could be misleading, and that the weak economy has fewer motorists reporting their collisions than before.
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