Oh, Deer! They're Mating

Deer in the mood are making daring moves

This is deer mating season, and like most species in the world, deer get more fiesty during this period.

In fact, collisions involving animals -- usually deer -- are three times higher in November than in any other month, especially at dawn and dusk.

Fatal crashes are up 50% in 8 years. There are a lot more deer and a lot more people.

In 1991, 101 people died in accidents involving animals. In 2000, 150 died. Last year, there were 223 victims.

The states with the most recorded deaths involving animals are Texas, with 227; Wisconsin, with 123; and Pennsylvania, with 112.

And it's not only in rural areas.  In fact, one factor in the rise in collisions is urban sprawl.

"Increasingly, we find that the risk of deer and other animal strikes to motorists are in suburban areas, not necessarily out in the forest," Kim Hazelbaker, Vice President Highway Loss Data Institute, told NBC News.

Drivers are urged to use caution in the presence of deer or when driving on open roads.

Driving and Safety Tips

Motorists can help avoid dangerous encounters with deer by heeding the following tips:

  • Watch for deer, especially at dawn and dusk. They are most active then. In the spring, deer will move from cover to find food and then return to cover. Often they will feed along road rights-of-way, where grass turns green first.
  • If you see one deer, approach cautiously, as there may be more out of sight. Deer often travel single file, so if you see one cross a road, chances are more are nearby waiting to cross. When startled by an approaching vehicle, they can panic and dart out from any direction without warning.
  • When you see a deer on a roadway, flash your headlights from bright to dim and honk the horn to encourage it to move away from the road. Drive with lights on during overcast days and use high beams at night whenever possible. (Though headlights can confuse deer, the reflecting light from their eyes will help you to see them.) Warn drivers following you of the presence of deer by tapping on your brakes.
  • Be alert all year long, especially on two-lane roads. Watch for deer warning signs. They are placed at known deer-crossing areas and serve as a first alert that deer may be near.
  • If a deer runs into the roadway, try to slow down or brake without swerving. Losing control of your car and crashing into another car or a stationary object can be more dangerous than hitting the deer.
  • Slow down when traveling through deer-populated areas.
  • If you cannot avoid hitting a deer, slow down and grasp the steering wheel firmly with both hands. Take your foot off the brake at the time of impact so the front end of your vehicle will lift up and enable the deer to go under the car, rather than over it (reducing the danger of it crashing through the windshield or windows).

For more information, visit DeerCrash.com, The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Safety Research Center.

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