WASHINGTON - Picture yourself behind the wheel on a dark and shadowy night, watching the windshield wipers bat away the rain and wondering, "What are the odds I’m going to hit a deer?"
The answer would be one in 102 if you live in Virginia. They are one in 114 if you live in Maryland. (If you live in the District of Columbia, the odds are higher that you will hit an opossum.)
Utah ranked near the bottom as a low risk state with the odds one in 405 of hitting a deer while driving.
If hitting a deer never crosses your mind, check to see whether you live in a downtown high-rise, commute on the subway and work in a large office complex. Just about everyone else who drives in the Washington megalopolis gives some thought to the chance of a close encounter, particularly at this time of year, when the bucks and does venture out in search of romance.
Sometimes amorous intent requires crossing a road, sometimes there is a collision, and often the bloody aftermath lingers to remind unscathed drivers of the danger.
Deer also carry ticks, which can spread Lyme disease. Maryland had 938 confirmed cases of the infection in people last year, and Virginia had 756, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
You’re most likely to have an unfortunate collision with a deer in West Virginia, which ranked No. 1 when the number of incidents were compared with the number of licensed drivers. South Dakota, Iowa and Michigan ranked just below the Mountain State. Your best bet for deer-free driving was Hawaii, followed by Arizona, Nevada and Florida.
With 52,369 deer-vehicle collisions, Virginia was ranked as the 10th worst in the nation last year by State Farm insurance, which drew on Federal Highway Administration data to create the rankings. Maryland was 14th, with 34,112 incidents. The District of Columbia came in 46th, with 495 collisions.
After declining for a couple of years, deer collisions increased by 7.7 percent in 2011, to a total of about 1.2 million, according to insurance industry data.
The industry statistics indicate that payouts for deer collision claims went up by 7.9 percent and overall payouts dropped 8.5 percent.
State Farm said the average cost of repairing damage from a deer collision is $3,305, which is a 4.4 percent increase this year over last. The Insurance Information Institute, an industry group that has access to insurance claims information, estimated the cost of the collisions nationwide in 2009 at $4.6 billion.
Recent research by AAA found that eight people had been killed in the Washington area in the past three years in collisions with deer. All but one of them was riding a motorcycle.