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Although a robust deer population is a boon to hunters and automotive body shops, the speedy and unpredictable animals are hazardous for drivers on Wisconsin roads every fall.
October and November are the mating season for deer, and they soon will increase their activity particularly at dusk and dawn while moving back and forth between their bedding and feeding areas. As they roam, deer may dart unexpectedly onto roads and into the path of vehicles.
Last year, Wisconsin law enforcement agencies reported a total of 18,338 deer vs. motor vehicle crashes, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). Waukesha County had the most motor vehicle vs. deer crashes reported in 2013 with 809. Dane County had the second most with 786 followed by Shawano County with 748. In Shawano and Green Lake counties, more than half of all reported crashes in 2013 involved deer. Deer are the third most commonly struck objects in Wisconsin traffic crashes (behind other vehicles and fixed objects).
“To avoid hitting deer with your vehicle, you need to slow down whenever you see them nearby. If you see one deer, there are probably more in the area that could dash in front of your vehicle,” says David Pabst, director of the WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety. “If you can’t avoid a deer in the road, 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 hitting another car or a stationary object like a tree.”
Motorcyclists must be especially careful because deer crashes can be fatal. Motorcycles were involved in six of the eight fatal deer vs. motor vehicle crashes in Wisconsin last year.
“The one exception to the ‘don’t swerve’ advice applies to motorcyclists,” Pabst says. “Motorcyclists should slow down, brake firmly and then swerve if necessary to avoid hitting the deer. If they must swerve, motorcyclists should try to stay within their driving lane to avoid hitting other vehicles or objects.”
WisDOT and the Wisconsin State Patrol safety officials offer the following advice to prevent deer crashes and injuries to motorists:
• Be on the lookout for deer, eliminate distractions while driving, and slow down especially in early morning and evening hours, which are the most active times for deer.
• Always buckle up. There are fewer and less severe injuries in vehicle vs. deer crashes when drivers and passengers wear safety belts.
• If you see a deer by the side of the road, slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten it 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 it to move away. Headlights can confuse a deer, causing it to freeze.
• Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path.
• Don’t swerve suddenly because you may lose control of your vehicle.
• 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.