To help avoid deer-vehicle collisions, the Kansas Insurance Department suggests the following:
• Stay alert, always wear your seat belt and drive at a safe, sensible speed for conditions.
• Watch for the reflection of deer eyes and for deer silhouettes on the shoulder of the road.
• Do not rely exclusively on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors to deter deer.
• When driving at night, use high-beam headlights when there is no opposing traffic. The high beams will illuminate the eyes of deer on or near a roadway.
• Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path, but stay in your lane. Many serious accidents occur when drivers swerve to avoid a deer and hit other vehicles or lose control of their cars. Potentially, you will risk less injury by hitting the deer.
• If you see one deer, it is likely there are more close by.
• If the deer stays on the road, stop on the shoulder, put on your hazard lights and wait for the deer to leave the roadway; do not try to go around the deer while it is on the road.
When an accident occurs, motorists should consider the following:
• If you do hit a deer and are uncertain whether the animal is dead, keep your distance. You might be dealing with an injured, wild animal with sharp hooves that can inflict serious bodily injury.
• If the deer is blocking the roadway and poses a danger to other motorists, you should immediately report the incident to the local law enforcement agency.
• If a driver hits a deer, they should slow down and pull onto the shoulder, turn on their emergency flashers, and watch for traffic if they have to exit their vehicle. If one has a cellular phone and are on a Kansas highway, dial *47 (*HP) for a highway patrol dispatcher or *582 (*KTA) for assistance on the Kansas Turnpike, or dial 911.
• Anyone involved in a vehicle-deer crash resulting in personal injury or property damage that totals $1,000 or more is required to immediately report the crash to the nearest law enforcement agency. Failure to report any traffic crash is a misdemeanor and may result in suspension of driving privileges. A salvage tag is required to remove a deer carcass from an accident site. Tags can be issued by KHP troopers, sheriff’s deputies, or KDWPT natural resource officers.
It is fall and, if you are a deer, love is in the air.
This time of year, more deer are seen on roadways, especially at sunrise and sunset. With things other than traffic safety on their minds, the love-sick critters are on the move when commuter traffic is highest.
“The number of accidents has been going up drastically in the last couple of weeks,” Barton County Undersheriff Larry Holliday said. Unfortunately, this has become an autumn tradition as deer enter the rut and the weather starts to change.
According to Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism biologist Lloyd Fox, the increase in deer-vehicle crashes is due largely to the deer mating season, called “rut.” During rut, deer focus on mating and travel more and pay less attention to hazards such as vehicles.
Also during the fall, many deer move to new locations as crops are harvested and leaves fall from trees and shrubs, so they are less secure than in their summer habitats. “Whenever you see machinery in the field, the deer will be on the move,” Holliday said.
“Constant defensive driving on Kansas roads and highways is a must during this fall’s deer mating season,” Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger said. “Be vigilant when you take the wheel.”
Each year, approximately 1.6 million crashes nationally are caused by deer and spike October-December due to deer mating season (known as the rut), reported the Insurance Information Institute. These collisions cause nearly $4 billion in vehicle damage per year, with each incident averaging over $3,000 per vehicle.
In Kansas, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation, there were 9,199 deer-vehicle collisions reported to KDOT in 2011, and two people were killed and 297 people were injured. 8,942 of the collisions resulted in property damage only. Deer-vehicle collisions occur in every Kansas county.
In most cases, counties with high human populations and high traffic volumes record the most deer-vehicle crashes. Sedgwick County recorded the most crashes with 354, followed by Johnson County with 339 and Butler County with 250.
In Barton County, Holliday said his department has worked 15-20 deer-related wrecks in the past three weeks alone.
But, there is more than the risk of human injury.
“It is essential that drivers stay focused and alert when driving in densely populated deer areas,” said Jim Hanni, executive vice president of public and government affairs at AAA. “Collisions caused by deer are generally covered under insurance policies.”
If involved in a crash, drivers should first call local law enforcement and then to make note of the date, time, street name and take any pictures to help document the incident. Then, Hanni said, drivers should contact their insurance agent.
“I urge Kansas motorists to check with their insurance agents or companies to find out if they have physical damage coverage (comprehensive and collision) on their vehicle policies,” Praeger said. “If not, they should get a quote to find out the additional premium charge to add that coverage, just so you have all the necessary information.”
The Commissioner also emphasizes two factors: For consumers who have only a liability policy, any damage in a deer/vehicle collision would not be covered by insurance. Second, the higher the deductible a person has, the more out-of-pocket costs that person will have to pay.