Odds of striking deer high in Maryland, Virginia


A four-point white tail buck runs across the entrance roadway to the Bay Ridge Community in Annapolis last year. (Linda Davidson/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Picture yourself behind the wheel on a dark and shadowy night, watching the windshield wipers bat away the rain and wondering, “What are the odds I’m going to hit a deer?”

The answer would be one in 102 if you live in Virginia. They are one in 114 if you live in Maryland. (If you live in the District, the odds are higher that you will hit a possum.)

If hitting a deer never crosses your mind, check to see whether you live in a downtown high-rise, commute on the subway and work in a large office complex. Just about everyone else who drives in the Washington megalopolis gives some thought to the chance of a close encounter with the furry kind, particularly at this time of year, when the bucks and does strike out in search of romance.

Sometimes amorous intent requires crossing a road, sometimes there is a collision, and often the bloody aftermath lingers to remind unscathed drivers of the danger.

Deer also carry ticks, which can spread the Lyme disease infection. Maryland had 938 confirmed cases of the disease in people last year, and Virginia had 756, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

You’re most likely to have an unfortunate collision with a deer in West Virginia, which ranked No. 1 when the number of incidents were compared with the number of licenced drivers. South Dakota, Iowa and Michigan ranked just below the Mountain State. You’re best bet for deer-free driving was Hawaii, followed by Arizona, Nevada and Florida.

With 52,369 deer-vehicle collisions, Virginia was ranked as 10th worst in the nation last year by State Farm insurance, which drew on Federal Highway Administration data to create the rankings. Maryland was 14th, with 34,112 incidents. The District came in 46th, with 495 collisions.

After declining for a couple of years, deer collisions increased by 7.7 percent in 2011, to a total of about 1.2 million, according to insurance industry data. The industry statistics indicate that payouts for deer collision claims went up by 7.9 percent, and overall payouts dropped 8.5 percent.

State Farm said the average cost of repairing deer collision damage is $3,305, a 4.4 percent increase this year over last. The Insurance Information Institute, an industry group that has access to insurance claims information, estimated the cost of the collisions nationwide in 2009 at $4.6 billion.

Recent research by AAA found that eight people had been killed in the Washington area in the past three years in collisions with deer. All but one of them was riding a motorcycle.

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
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