Deer strikes down in 2010

Crash-prone Columbia County, which ranks among Georgia's top deer-vehicle accident areas, recorded an 8.1 percent decline in deer strikes in 2010, county Animal Services said.

Columbia County drivers might be getting better -- or perhaps the deer are getting smarter.

Whatever the reason, deer-vehicle crashes appear to be declining, based on the number of road-killed carcasses recovered by county officials this year.

"In 2009 we impounded 642 deceased deer and in 2010 we have impounded just 590 deceased deer," said Daniel Mayne, the field operations superviser for the county's Animal Services Department. That amounts to an 8.1 percent drop.

Columbia County's numerous subdivisions linked by commuter routes jutting into rural whitetail habitat make the area one of state's riskiest communities for deer-vehicle accidents, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The department's analysis of the more than 10,000 deer accidents reported statewide each year shows Columbia County has an accident rate of 35.9 to 49.1 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. That range is almost four times the state average, which ranges from 9.6 to 12.3.

Richmond County's accident rate ranges from 8.5 to 11.1, below the state average.

According to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, which uses law enforcement motor vehicle reports to track deer accidents, there were 10,793 such accidents in 2009, which included 737 injuries and seven fatalities.

The decrease in road-killed deer in Columbia County corresponds with a State Farm Insurance report issued in September, in which the odds of striking a deer in Georgia during the next 12 months were calculated at 1 in 205, compared with 1 in 194 the previous year.

State Farm ranked Georgia as a "medium risk" state that is close to the national average of 1 in 208.

South Carolina, by comparison, was among the "high risk" states, with accident odds of 1 in 153.

Hawaii was ranked as the nation's least likely place to hit a deer, with odds of just 1 in 9,932, the report said.