By MATT MILNER
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The odds you will hit a deer while driving in Iowa are higher than virtually any state in the country. The irony? The odds actually dropped in the past year.
State Farm calculates the probabilities of a car v. deer collision each year and ranks the states according to how likely bumper is to meet Bambi. Iowa, where drivers have a one-in-73 chance of hitting a deer over the course of a year, is third nationally. Only West Virginia (one-in-41 chance) and Montana (one-in-65 chance) rank higher.
It was enough to raise Iowa by one spot on the listing, despite the overall likelihood of a collision falling by 9 percent. Every state in the top five saw a decline compared to last year, but other states fell faster than Iowa.
Even locally, there are still areas where drivers keep their eyes wide open. When the Courier asked readers on Facebook what spots they worry about, most cited rural roads. More than one mentioned areas around Blakesburg and others pointed to Highway 34 near Albia, which isn't far away. Rutledge Road also came in for complaints.
Ottumwa has deer hotspots, with drivers on roads around Wildwood Park and Memorial Park encountering deer on a regular basis. But there's a big difference between having a deer wander onto the road when you're going city speeds versus driving on the highway.
Running into a deer is usually expensive. The average cost of a collision is $3,414, up from the previous year. And, unlike most drivers, deer aren't known for keeping current insurance when they take to the road.
Nationally, the number of crashes involving deer has risen in the past five years. But the rate of increase is less than the increase in the number of drivers on the road. That means the chance of any given driver hitting a deer has dropped.
Hate deer? Think Hawaii. The odds of a driver in Hawaii hitting a deer are one-in-6,787. State Farm said those odds are roughly equivalent to a “middle-of-the-pack National Football League team running off 13 wins in a row.”
The calendar is getting into the worst months of the year for deer collisions. November has the highest rate, with approximately 18 percent of all collisions coming in that one month. October is the second-worst month, with December coming in third.
Here are five deer safety tips from State Farm:
• Watch for deer crossing signs and be vigilant when in an area known for deer
• Be extra cautious from 6-9 p.m., when deer tend to be most active
• Use high beams when you can to illuminate the road
• Ditch the cell phone and snacks. Distractions can keep you from spotting the deer in time to avoid it.
• Don't swerve. Hitting the deer is a better option than losing control or driving into oncoming traffic.
Let us know what spots in southeast Iowa worry you. To add the places you think are worst for deer and drivers, follow this link to the Courier's Facebook page: http://ow.ly/plU8O.