Deer Involvement in Animal-Strike Collisions on U.S. Roads and Highways

Over the past twelve years, Advanced Drivers of North America has had the privilege of working in rural areas in most American states, training into the thousands of drivers at various agricultural and agro-chemical corporations — people who typically have been born and raised in such areas and who are very conversant indeed with country living and with nature.

Photo of a small deer lying dead beside an interstate highway.
Even a relatively small individual like this white-tail is far from funny to hit at high speed in a sedan. Especially at night, the shock to the driver can be enough to trigger a much more serious outcome than the unfortunate deer alone created. Copyright image.

One subject on which we have always asked rural drivers for their personal opinions is that of deer-strike collisions, an issue which causes a relatively low number of human injuries and a relatively low number of human deaths but does cause hugely expensive amounts of damage to vehicles: very dear deer indeed.

Even though the law requires that anyone who hits a deer — meaning white-tail, black-tail and mule deer, elk, moose, etc. — to report the collision either to the police, the state’s environment/wildlife department and/or the driver’s own insurance company, very few drivers actually bother to do so.  Indeed, the drivers we asked about this, above, typically seemed to think that only about ten percent of all deer-strike collisions are reported at all.  (The estimates varied from 50 percent all the way down to just one percent but around ten percent was by far the commonest.)  Why is this important?  Simply because it brings a whole new meaning to the official figures shown below, and you can adjust them accordingly!

Photo of a bull elk crossing a road.
The larger species, such as this very scruffy bull elk or — even worse — moose, create much greater danger for vehicle occupants and in-depth driver training becomes much more important. Copyright image.

According to Wikipedia, for example, “an estimated 1.23 million deer related accidents occurred [in the USA] in a one-year period ending June 2012.”  Previous years’ calculations have suggested that the overall number of reported animal collisions each year, in the contiguous 48 states is about 1.6 million.  So now multiply that already-huge figure by the factor of ten shown above in relation to unreported collisions and you may see something closer to the real total!

New York State alone has around 65,000 known deer-vehicle collisions annually.

State Farm has taken a different approach and has created a table and an excellent map showing the collision risks on a state-by-state basis.

An excellent map from State Farm showing the relative risk, on a state-by-state basis, of deer-strike collisions.

Although it may seem bizarre, even in large urban areas deer-strike collisions are actually not rare.  The population of white-tail deer, for example, is now at an all-time high across much of America, primarily because  back yards in urban and suburban areas have created an ideal environment where they can feed in relative freedom from any predator species and human hunters.

Photo of a "moose ahead" warning sign.
The most deadly possibility occurs in any collision involving moose. Think of it as being like hitting a rhinocerous on stilts — and yes, it really is that dangerous. This photo was taken in Massachusetts but several American states and most of Canada has them. Copyright image.

Hitting any of the deer species can never be completely ruled out but the likelihood can be very dramatically reduced by means of wise, accurately-informed driving.

On all ADoNA safe driving courses we therefore always talk about animal-strike collisions and we prefer to cover the subject in-depth wherever possible because it is such a huge cause of expensive vehicular damage and sometimes worse outcomes.  This is a field in which we have unsurpassed knowledge and we invite you to take advantage of that for your own team of drivers.

Author: EddieWren

Eddie Wren is the CEO and Chief Instructor at Advanced Drivers of North America. His driver safety background is given at:

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