Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 16, 2012

Need for caution

Vehicle/deer collisions higher during final 3 months of year

The Independent

ASHLAND — Officials with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the Kentucky State Police are warning motorists to be on the lookout for deer during the next three months.

As most motorists surely know by now, deer can and do suddenly dart into the paths of oncoming vehicles throughout the year, and it is wise for motorists to always be on the lookout for deer, particularly at dawn and at dusk, when deer are feeding.

However, there is an added reason for motorists to use caution during the period from mid-October until the end of the year. That’s because it is the mating season for white-tail deer, and a buck chasing a doe is unlikely to look for oncoming traffic when crossing a highway.

“Historically, November is the month with the highest number of deer-vehicle collisions in Kentucky,” said Tina Brunjes, deer program coordinator for the department. “Drivers should be alert, particularly in areas where brush or trees are close to roadways and when driving on stretches of interstate highways which have forested medians.”

The presence of yellow deer crossing signs should also be a tipoff to motorists they are traveling a stretch of road where deer may be encountered. “Our traffic engineers place the signs as they see a need, usually in areas with high rates of deer-vehicle crashes,” said Chuck Wolfe, a spokesman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

During the past eight years, the Kentucky State Police have documented an average of 2,985 deer/vehicle collisions annually, but the number is higher than that. Many accidents that cause little or no damage to vehicles are not reported to police.

Only about 6 percent of deer-vehicle accidents result in human injuries, but in 2011, there were three human fatalities in collisions between deer and vehicles, according to KSP statistics. On average about 400 deer/vehicle accidents occur in October, about 800 in November and about 300 in December.

In all, about half of the accidents involving deer occur in the last three months of the year.

As individuals who have hit deer with their vehicles know, it often is impossible for even the most cautious driver to avoid hitting a deer. Instead of the deer being struck by the oncoming vehicle, sometimes deer hit moving vehicles, causing damage to the side of the vehicle instead of the front end. A deer can dart from the side of  a rural road so quickly it is nearly  impossible for the startled motorist to avoid a collision.

Never attempt to drive around a deer standing in the road, fish and wildlife officials advise. If the deer is facing away from the traffic flow, flash your headlights from low beam to high beam and be prepared to stop. Deer usually travel in groups, so expect to see more than one deer crossing the road in single file.

Drive defensively when traveling at night through creek bottoms and other heavily wooded areas. Watch for deer standing on the side of the road. Scan the roadway ahead carefully, and drive with your headlights on high beam when possible.

Remember: Deer are not limited to rural areas. There are so many deer inside the city limits of Ashland, motorists should be ever on the lookout for them.

Even when following these tips, you may still strike a deer, but the odds of avoiding a collision are greatly improved.