A deer in the headlights is less common in LA than other states

It may surprise you to learn that Louisiana drivers have a much lower chance of striking a deer than drivers in other states. That’s a statewide fact, but this time of year in some of our rural communities it probably seems completely bogus.

The insurance company State Farm tracks vehicle-animal collision rates nationwide, and the company estimates that Louisiana drivers have a one in 192 chance of colliding with any animal, including deer. Compare that to West Virginia, where the likelihood of striking an animal is one in 38. 

The data only reflects accidents that result in insurance claims, so it doesn’t include most collisions involving, for example, dogs or cats. I suppose it’s possible that Louisiana drivers don’t report hitting deer as often as drivers in other states, or maybe we’re just better drivers. 

On the other hand, the rate of accidents involving animals in Louisiana has almost doubled during the past decade, according to the State Farm data. 

On Thanksgiving Day years ago, I was driving my truck home through Bienville Parish after a holiday visit with my folks when a big buck appeared out of nowhere and I hit it. I drove home with one headlight and a smashed grill.

Fast forward a dozen or so years. I had my second encounter with a deer when a spike dashed into the path of my car in Natchitoches Parish. That’s two collisions with a deer so far during my lifetime.  I suppose I’ve been fortunate to have only collided with two deer but others have not been so fortunate. 

The majority of deer/vehicle collisions occur in states to the north, many of which have restrictive hunting regulations and short deer seasons. The top ten states where most collisions occur in order of frequency are: W. Virginia, Montana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Mississippi, South Dakota, Virginia and Missouri. 

Why are such encounters becoming an increasing problem? For one, there are more drivers on the road. For another, the deer population is growing all across the country and when you see deer habitat giving way to urban sprawl, it’s inevitable that such encounters will increase. Need proof? All you have to do is drive a few miles along the interstate or on roads leading into town and count the deer carcasses you see. 

Authorities estimate that over the past two years, 1.8 million deer/vehicle collisions have occurred across the country. 

State Farm Insurance Company has provided some tips and words of caution to help prevent deer/vehicle collisions.

Be alert to deer crossing signs; they’re there for a purpose.

Don’t swerve. If a car crash is inevitable, maintain control of your vehicle and don’t veer off the road. 

Brake as necessary. If you can avoid hitting the animal, reduce your speed, honk your horn and tap your brakes to warn other drivers. If there are no other drivers behind you, brake hard.

Remember peak season. Animal collisions happen most during October through December, which is hunting and mating season.

Remember meal time. Watch for animals in the road between dusk and dawn..

Watch for herds. If you see one deer, there are probably more nearby. 

Don’t use a whistle. No scientific evidence supports that car-mounted deer whistles work. 

One of those deer/vehicle collisions a few years ago affected me in a very personal way. I had cataract surgery that summer on both my eyes resulting in clear vision like I had not had since I was a teenager. I was elated with the results and I owe the removal of my clouded lens and replacement with new clear ones to an individual I came to practically hold in reverence, Dr. William Steen, founder of the Steen-Hall Eye Institute in Shreveport who performed my surgery.

A few weeks after my last surgery, Dr. Steen was riding to work on a beautiful fall day on his motorcycle just outside the Shreveport city limits when a buck dashed into the cycle, throwing Dr. Steen to the pavement, resulting in injuries that took his life. I am devastated by the loss of such a gifted surgeon and urge caution when you get behind the wheel or crawl on your bike. 

A deer is a beautiful, graceful animal when seen from your deer stand but not when one is making a bee-line for your vehicle.

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