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North Dakota ranked 7th in deer-car accidents

GRAND FORKS -- This shouldn't come as a big surprise, but North Dakota and Minnesota rank among the worst 10 states in the country for deer-vehicle collisions, according to a new report from State Farm Insurance Co.

GRAND FORKS -- This shouldn't come as a big surprise, but North Dakota and Minnesota rank among the worst 10 states in the country for deer-vehicle collisions, according to a new report from State Farm Insurance Co.

In North Dakota, which ranks seventh, there's a 1-in-91 chance of hitting a deer with a vehicle in the next 12 months. Minnesota, where motorists have a 1-in-100 chance of hitting a deer, weighed in at No. 10, the report said.

For the fourth consecutive year, West Virginia topped the list as the most likely place for drivers to hit a deer with 1-in-42 odds, State Farm said. The company compiles the annual report using claims data along with licensed driver counts in each state from the Federal Highway Administration.

According to State Farm, an estimated 2.3 million deer-vehicle collisions occurred from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2010 -- a jump of 21.1 percent from five years earlier.

Worst months

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The report is timely because October, November and December traditionally are the worst months for deer collisions. It's mating season, and deer are on the move, and growing deer numbers near populated areas further increase the odds of hitting one of the animals.

"State Farm has been committed to auto safety for several decades, and that's why we want to call attention to potential hazards like this one," Laurette Stiles, State Farm vice president of strategic resources, said in a news release. "We hope our updated information will inspire motorists to make safe decisions.

Despite its ranking, North Dakota actually has seen a modest reduction in deer-vehicle collisions in recent years, according to statistics from the state Department of Transportation. From 2004 to 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available, collisions declined from 4,283 to 3,656 -- the lowest number of deer crashes since 2001, the DOT said.

Minnesota, by comparison, has about 5,500 deer-vehicle crashes reported annually and about twice as many that go unreported, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

Bad as ever

Randy Kottsick, a State Farm agent in Grand Forks, said deer-vehicle collisions remain a significant part of his workload.

"Here locally, I haven't seen a decline in my office in the last five or six years," Kottsick said.

Kottsick said there's definitely a spike in claims in October and November. According to State Farm's national data, the average property damage claim is $3,103, up 1.7 percent from a year ago.

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Locally, Kottsick said, a typical claim will be $2,000 or more.

"It just depends on how hard the hit is going to be, but that's kind of a rough estimate," he said. "It just depends if you hit it center or how it works. Sometimes, the deer even moves up in the windshield or slides around."

Rounding out the top 10 states with the greatest odds of deer-vehicle collisions were:

- Iowa, 1 in 67.

- Michigan, 1 in 70.

- South Dakota, 1 in 76.

- Montana, 1 in 82.

- Pennsylvania, 1 in 85.

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- Wisconsin, 1 in 96.

- Arkansas, 1 in 99.

Meanwhile, the state with the slimmest odds is Hawaii, where the chances of hitting a deer in the next 12 months are a paltry 1 in 13,011.

According to State Farm, that's roughly equivalent to the odds of finding a pearl in an oyster shell.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, deer-vehicle collisions in the U.S. cause about 200 fatalities each year.

North Dakota has recorded a total of 10 fatalities and 342 injuries since 1999. Minnesota, by comparison, had nine fatalities and 360 injuries in 2008, according to the Deer Vehicle Crash Information Clearinghouse.

Dokken is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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