As the days get cooler and the nights get longer, deer are becoming more active – and that’s dangerous for drivers.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation says deer are active in their mating season of October and November. They will be moving between their bedding and feeding areas between dusk and dawn, and often dart in front of vehicles unexpectedly.
In 2012, there was a total of 18,895 crashes reported between deer and vehicles in Wisconsin. Deer are the third most commonly struck object in Wisconsin, after other vehicles and fixed objects.
There were 14 crashes that killed people. Of those, 13 involved motorcycles.
The most car-vehicle crashes were in Dane County, with 851 being reported. Shawano County was second with 800 and Waukesha third with 710. In Shawano, Green Lake and Taylor counties, more than half of all the vehicle crashes in 2012 involved deer.
"To avoid hitting a deer, drivers must slow down whenever they see deer in the area. If you see one deer, there are probably more nearby that could dash in front of your vehicle," says David Pabst, director of the DOT Bureau of Transportation Safety. "If you can’t avoid a deer, it’s safer to hit the brakes and hit the deer than to swerve suddenly and try to miss it. If you swerve, you risk losing control of your vehicle and rolling over or hitting another car or a stationary object, like a tree."
The DOT and State Patrol offer the following tips for avoiding deer:
- Be on the lookout for deer, eliminate distractions while driving, and slow down in early morning and evening hours — the most active time for deer.
- Always wear your safety belt — there are fewer and less severe injuries in vehicle-deer crashes when safety belts are worn.
- If you see a deer by the side of the road, slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten the deer away.
- When you see one deer, look for another one — deer seldom run alone.
- If you see a deer looming in your headlights, don't expect the deer to move away — headlights can confuse a deer and cause the animal to freeze.
Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path.
- Do not swerve — it can confuse the deer as to where to run — and cause you to lose control and hit a tree or another car.
- The one exception to the "don't swerve" advice applies to motorcyclists. On a motorcycle, you should slow down, brake firmly and then swerve if necessary to avoid hitting the deer. If you must swerve, always try to stay within your lane to avoid hitting other objects.
- If you hit a deer, get your vehicle off the road if possible, and then call a law enforcement agency. Walking on a highway is dangerous, so stay in your vehicle if you can.
- Don’t try to move the animal if it is still alive. The injured deer could hurt you.
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