In terms of the number of people killed annually, deer are deadlier than sharks, alligators, and bears combined, many times over. According to a new report from State Farm, the likelihood of hitting a deer while driving is 1 in 150 for Utah, a 30% increase compared with last year.
“Number one, there’s an increase in the amount of vehicle-miles driven by Utah residents and visitors, so there’s more cars out there driving," said wildlife-vehicle interaction expert Dr. Patricia Cramer. "The second could be there’s more deer out there. The Division of Wildlife is doing such a good job at increasing the herd, which is about 300,000 across the state, that the numbers of animals getting killed is a reflection of more animals out there.”
The combination of more deer or more cars can definitely lead to more accidents, but it might be more complicated than that. Insurance companies use the number of insurance claims to build their statistical models. As the economy improves, more people carry comprehensive insurance and report their accidents. An increase in reporting could make it seem as though there is an increase in collisions, even if the real number hasn’t changed much.
The Utah Department of Transportation and the Division of Wildlife work with one another to decrease the frequency of collisions. They utilize wildlife fences and wildlife crossing structures that allow the animals to cross a highway without encountering a vehicle. Dr. Cramer keeps both agencies informed on how well the structures are working.
“And we have recorded mule deer using those structures over 50,000 times in the past several years getting underneath or above the roads, and avoiding traffic accidents,” Dr. Cramer said.
Even with effective wildlife crossing structures, motorists are encouraged to use extra care driving in October, November, and December, when the most deer collisions occur.