Stats Show Deer-Vehicle Crashes on Rise in Indiana

November 19, 2008

The number of Indiana motorists colliding with deer is on the rise despite state-sanctioned hunts intended to bring down their numbers.

Deer-vehicle accidents in Indiana are up 25 percent since 2003 compared with 15 percent for the rest of the nation, according to State Farm Insurance, which used insurance claims to compile its statistics.

One in 129 Indiana drivers was likely to collide with a deer between July 1, 2007, and June 30, the 11th-highest rate in the nation, the State Farm report said.

State police are urging motorists to be alert, particularly in the evening, now that deer are in the midst of their mating season.

State police Sgt. Ron Galaviz told The News-Sentinel that drivers who don’t think they can safely steer around a deer should just brake.

“We don’t want anybody getting hurt trying to miss a deer,” Galaviz said.

A report by the Highway Loss Data Institute found that 223 people died across the country in animal-vehicle crashes last year, including four in Indiana. Since 1993, Indiana has had 59 deaths from such crashes.

Motorist Michael C. Shanley said it was a clear the morning of Nov. 4 when he saw a deer just before he collided with the animal on Interstate 69 near Fort Wayne.

“There’s deer and then there’s the air bag in your face. It happened so fast that there was not much I could’ve done,” said Shanley, who was not injured although his car sustained about $7,500 in damage.

Deer-auto collisions are on the rise even through Indiana hunters continue to kill thousands of deer each year in state-sanctioned hunts.

Last year, 124,427 deer were killed in those hunts, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. That’s a nearly 20 percent increase from 1998, but deer-vehicle accidents continue to increase.

Laura Simon, a Humane Society of the United States field director, contends that deer hunting has little effect at reducing deer-vehicle accidents.

Although hunting temporarily thins the herd, it leaves more vegetation to eat for surviving does. The more they eat, the more offspring they have, she said.

“It would be nice to shoot out the problem, but the solution is not so easy,” Simon said. “We just don’t think it’s effective, and, of course, we don’t think it’s humane.”

She recommends deer sterilization programs and use of roadside reflectors and motion detectors to reduce deer-vehicle accidents.

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