News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 15, 2012

EDITORIAL: The season of deer dangers

Autumn nights pose high risk for vehicle-deer crashes


The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The highways and byways of rural Indiana and Illinois have their share of traffic dangers. None is more pronounced this time of year than that of deer.

The Indiana Department of Resources is reminding motorists — which pretty much includes all of us — that autumn is the peak season for deer-related vehicle accidents. Deer seemingly come out of nowhere to become a serious threat, so keen attention to driving defensively is about all you can do prevent an unfortunate accident.

“Nearly 50 percent of all vehicle accidents involving white-tailed deer occur between October and December, with November by far the worst month,” says Chad Stewart, deer research biologist for the DNR.

The seasonal increase in deer activity is brought about by the approaching breeding season. Other factors contributing to accidents are deer density, vehicle density, surrounding habitat, speed limits and time of day.  

But the news isn’t all bad. Researchers reported there were 15,205 deer-related collisions in 2011, a 4.9-percent decrease from 2010.

A few other things to consider, according to the DNR:

• Fall is the most common season to strike a deer.

• Deer are most active between sunset and sunrise.

• Deer often travel in groups, so if you see one, another is likely nearby.

• Be especially careful in areas where you have seen deer before.

• Use high beams when there is no opposing traffic; scan for deer’s illuminated eyes or dark silhouettes along the side of the road.

• If you see a deer, slow your speed drastically, even if it is far away.

• Exercise extreme caution along woodlot edges, at hills or blind turns.

• Never swerve to avoid hitting a deer; most serious crashes occur when drivers try to miss a deer but hit something else.

• Pay attention to traffic signs warning of deer crossings.

Stewart also said if you hit a deer, exercise caution after the fact. Don’t approach the deer unless you’re sure it’s dead. Deer are gentle creatures, but their hooves are sharp and powerful.

Be aware of the dangers of the season, especially at night. Be safe.