Oh Deer: Report shares likelihood of deer-related accidents in S - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Oh Deer: Report shares likelihood of deer-related accidents in SC

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A new report ranks South Carolina 18th nationwide for the likelihood of a motorist being involved in a deer-vehicle collision.

The statistics, released by State Farm Insurance, report drivers in South Carolina had a 1 in 126 chance of hitting a deer over the past year. The national average was 1 in 170.

Deer experts with the Department of Natural Resources say while being ranked 18th may seem high, they say it's important to put the ranking into perspective. "Eighteen out of 50 may sound bad, but when you really look at it, there are a lot of states that have really few deer," said Charles Ruth with the South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources.

Ruth has studied the deer population in South Carolina for years. "We have a relatively high deer population, but we don't have a very high human population, and it obviously takes a human driving a car to create a deer-vehicle collision," said Ruth.

As expected, Ruth says accidents are more common in well-traveled areas. "In suburban areas where you don't have a lot of hunting going on, you aren't getting that annual reduction in deer numbers," he said.

While we're in the midst of hunting season, "A lot of people think because hunters are in the woods they are running the deer out and that's simply not the case," said Ruth. More importantly, it's breeding season. "Deer are moving more and when they move more, the likelihood of a deer crossing a roadway is increased and that sets you up for deer-vehicle collisions," said Ruth.

Officials say October and November are the months with the highest number of deer-related collisions because of the mating season, and unfortunately Ruth says we'll most likely see another increase in accidents when the time changes in 10 days.  "Naturally deer move on a daily basis, much more around sun up and sun down, unfortunately that's when people commute. With the time change that's coming you'll probably see another spike in deer- vehicle collisions," added Ruth.

However, relatively speaking Ruth says our deer population has dropped by 25 percent over the past 10 years. So while the possibility of being in an accident certainly exists, experts say it's more about being ready than being worried. "Understand the time of year, understand the time of day, understand that these animals are not going to get out of your way. They're running on pure instinct and when they're alarmed by a vehicle, there's no telling which direction they're going to run and what they're going to do," said Ruth.

Officials with DNR and with State Farm released some defensive driving tips:

- If you see a deer, and can slow down safely, do so. If possible, come to a complete stop.

- If you see one deer, be cautious when advancing. There could be several more behind it.

- Flash your lights or give a horn blast to alert the deer as you approach.

- If a crash is imminent, hit the deer. More people are injured when they try to swerve to avoid an animal.

DNR officials say the South Carolina Department of Transportation reports around 2,500 deer-vehicle collisions a year, but they estimate that number could be more like 10,000 because of the accidents that go unreported.

DNR says 55 to 60 percent off all deer-vehicle collisions happen between mid-September and mid-December.

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