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Deer-vehicle collisions high in Mississippi

The potential of striking a deer while driving on Mississippi roads remains a higher danger than in most states, but has declined in recent years.

Mississippi ranked sixth nationally in deer-vehicle collisions in 2014, but fell out of the top 10 in 2017, according to data from State Farm Insurance. There are about 3,000 such wrecks each year in Mississippi.

The odds of hitting a deer with a vehicle double during the months of October through December when deer are actively on the move and mating. The deer population in Mississippi has exploded over the last decade with the Mississippi State University Extension Service estimating there are approximately 1.75 million whitetail deer in the Magnolia State, the highest population density in the nation.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace reminds motorists that collisions with deer and wildlife increase in more rural areas, as well as during dusk and dawn.

“Unfortunately, that is something we have to deal with because of the wildlife population in Warren County,” Pace said. “Drivers have to be cautious and know deer and other wildlife will cross the road at anytime, but are especially numerous at dusk and early in evening.”

According to Pace, from March 1 through Dec. 1 of this year, the sheriff’s department has responded to 55 incidences in the county of deer-vehicle collisions where someone has either struck a deer or wrecked their vehicle avoiding a deer.

“We also have to remember that we as humans are building homes and businesses in their habitat,” Pace added. “They’ve always been here, but as we expand into their habitat we are encroaching on them.”

Collisions with deer remain a high risk, especially in rural areas such as Mississippi, and can cause a great deal of damage and injury. But avoiding a deer collision can also be harmful.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, a driver swerved off a road near Edwards to avoid a deer and, according to the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office, five occupants of the vehicle were injured in the single-vehicle wreck. None of the injuries were life threatening, but all five were transported to the hospital.

Such accidents also cause an increase in insurance rates. According to State Farm, the national claim cost average from July 2016 through June 2017 was $4,179 — up from $3,995 the previous year.

The Insurance Industry Institute estimates about 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, which result in approximately 150 deaths, thousands of injuries and about a billion dollars in damage.

Drivers are advised to remain alert for deer, especially during dusk and dawn. According to the Mississippi Department of Transportation, about 20 percent of crashes with deer occur in the early morning, while half happen between 5 p.m. and midnight.

And if you see a deer, be prepared for more deer to cross the roadway.