PARKERSBURG - A study released by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. on Tuesday showed West Virginia ranked number one in vehicle-deer collisions.
According to State Farm officials, vehicle collisions with deer are three times more likely to occur in November than any month between February and August. October is the second most likely month for a crash involving a deer and a vehicle; December is the third.
The study predicted the chances of West Virginia motorists striking a deer over the next year are 1 in 40, compared to the 1 in 48 predicted last year. South Dakota was second on the list, with the likelihood of drivers hitting a deer being one in 68.
Iowa, with a one in 71.9 chance, dropped from its previous second place to third. Michigan was among the top five, with one in 72.4, close to Pennsylvania's number five spot with a one in 76 chance.
The insurance company estimated that 1.23 million vehicle collisions caused by the presence of deer occurred in the U.S. between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012.
"We have known for quite a while that the frequency of auto insurance claims has been declining," said Chris Mullen, director of technology research. "But whatever is causing that trend is obviously not impacting deer-related crashes."
State Farm agent in Vienna Chuck Noffsinger said it doesn't surprise him West Virginia has topped the list for the last six years.
"It's not surprising with our state," he said. "With our geography and where our roads tend to go, in wooded areas."
Noffsinger's advice for drivers in West Virginia is to use caution between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., prime deer-crossing hours.
"I talk to people about deer all the time," said Noffsinger. "Defensive driving, reminding (clients) if they see a deer there are probably more behind them."
Noffsinger said he advises young drivers if they see a deer in the roadway not to swerve.
"I try to really have them focus on watching out for deer," he said of younger drivers. "If it's inevitable don't swerve, try to brake, slow down and stay under control."
Parkersburg Police Department Sgt. Greg Collins said Parkersburg has a significant deer population.
"You can occasionally see deer eating along or running across significant thoroughfares like Murdoch Avenue," said Collins. "We see them more frequently in neighborhoods with wooded areas close by."
Collins said the number of deer-vehicle accidents reported will usually increase this time of year because of a more active deer population. Because of the urban setting, Parkersburg Police Department officers must shoot an injured deer with great care and precaution, he said.
Collins said if a collision with a deer is unavoidable, the best practice is not to swerve to avoid it.
"Turning the wheel causing the vehicle to travel across the center lane or off the roadway can have far worse consequences than just hitting the animal," said Collins.
Drivers who hit a deer should pull over to a safe location off the roadway and call 911, Collins said.
"You should not attempt to move the animal from the roadway because of the possibility of being struck by a vehicle yourself," he said.