Motorists, beware. Deer activity is on the rise — and in a way that further endangers people and property.
Law enforcement officers in Kansas understandably step up the warnings this time of year in reminding travelers to be aware of deer crossing roadways. The peak season for deer-related accidents runs from October through December, with a spike in collisions with vehicles usually in mid-November.
Much of the blame goes to deer mating season, known as the rut. Deer also are on the move because seasonal changes affect their summer habitats. When crops are harvested and leaves fall from trees and shrubs, deer start looking for new locations.
Those two factors mean more deer are crossing roads and getting in the path of traffic.
The Kansas Department of Transportation reported nearly one in six crashes across Kansas in 2018 involved a deer. Those accidents included actual collisions with deer, along with those in which the appearance of deer contributed to a crash.
Beyond the obvious danger to motorists, a toll also comes in the cost of vehicle repair and other property damage, as well as law enforcement resources needed to cover wrecks.
While there is no guaranteed way to prevent a deer-related accident, law enforcement officers offer tips.
Deer are particularly active during dawn and dusk. Watch for more than one, as deer often travel in groups.
Reduce speed and be alert near wooded areas or green spaces, such as golf courses or parks, and near water sources, such as streams or ponds.
Heed warnings in deer-crossing signs that show areas where high numbers of vehicle-deer crashes have occurred in the past.
Use bright lights at night to help see deer as far ahead as possible.
When deer appear in the road, don’t swerve to miss them. Swerving can cause a vehicle to veer into the oncoming lane of traffic or roll in the ditch, which can be far more dangerous than hitting the deer.
Make sure everyone in the vehicle is buckled up, a proven lifesaver in crashes of any kind.
When a collision with a deer occurs, motorists should follow additional tips:
Move the vehicle to the shoulder if possible and call law enforcement. Kansas Highway Patrol can be reached at *47, Kansas Turnpike at *KTA and local law enforcement at 911.
Don't attempt to move the deer. Law enforcement officers can remove it from the road when they arrive. Don’t go near a wounded animal, which can be frightened and unpredictable.
Turn on hazard lights and remain buckled up inside the vehicle. It is important to stay protected in case there is a secondary crash.
If it is necessary to be outside the vehicle, keep it as far off the road as possible, and don't stand between vehicles if there is another one close by. Keep children buckled and in car seats. Watch closely for traffic.
Some deer-vehicle crashes simply can't be avoided. Through greater awareness and common sense, motorists at least can improve their chances of avoiding these dangerous encounters on the road. Be alert and stay safe.