Archive for Monday, November 8, 2004

November dangerous month for deer-car collisions

November 8, 2004


Kansas Highway Patrol Lt. John Eichkorn can't explain it.

But for some reason, the state's deer-vs.-vehicle collisions peak about the same day every year -- Nov. 17.

"We're not sure why," Eichkorn said. "It just seems to be the day we have the most deer-car crashes."

Last year, there were about 75 accidents involving deer on Nov. 17.

In general, most accidents involving deer happen in November and December.

About 2,000 accidents involving deer occurred in Kansas in November 2003. There were a total of 9,108 deer-vehicle accidents in the state last year. Douglas County tallied 210 accidents.

Accidents involving deer usually increase this time of year because the woodland creatures are searching for more food to prepare for the winter, and it is mating season.

Lt. Steve Rector with the Douglas County Sheriff's Department said accidents along county highways are frequent this time of year. Drivers need to be aware of their surroundings while driving, he said.

"People need to pay attention," he said. "Especially if they see a 'deer crossing' sign in the area. Those spots are marked for a reason. It's because there's been a pattern of accidents in the area involving deer."

It may be difficult to avoid deer while driving, but Kansas Highway Patrol officials advise special care:¢ Be especially watchful at dawn and dusk, when deer are particularly active.¢ Deer seldom travel alone. Chances are that if you see one deer crossing a road, others are nearby.¢ Reduce your speed and be alert near wooded areas or green spaces, like parks or golf courses, and near water sources, like streams or ponds.¢ Don't swerve to avoid a collision with a deer. The most serious accidents occur when motorists are taking evasive action.¢ Pay attention around deer crossing signs, and always wear a seat belt.

But Eichkorn said deer accidents weren't limited to rural areas near woods. Two years ago, he said, a deer crossed Interstate 70 in Topeka, causing an accident that killed a man.

"Deer are like people," Eichkorn said. "They are creatures of habit and they live in generally the same location until progress moves them out. But they don't always move to rural areas."

Not paying attention may come at a cost. Officials with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimate that the 1.5 million annual crashes in the United States involving deer cause about $1.1 billion in vehicle damage.

Deer-vehicle accidents in Kansas last year also injured 332 people.

"If you hit a deer head-on in a small car, it's going to do a lot of damage," Rector said.

Deer-vehicle accidents in Kansas set a record number in 1999, with 10,312. Here's a year-by-year breakdown since 1990:1990: 4,2101991: 4,3661992: 4,7391993: 5,5821994: 6,5711995: 6,7461996: 8,4151997: 9,1161998: 9,9921999: 10,3122000: 9,5912001: 10,1922002: 9,2942003: 9,108-- Source: Kansas Department of Transportation

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