Deer-vehicle accident numbers for area counties in 2013, listed by totals, fatalities and injuries:
Barton – 158, 1, 7
Ellsworth – 73, 0, 2
Pawnee – 94, 0, 2,
Rice – 71, 0, 1
Rush – 85, 0, 2
Russell – 80, 0, 0,
Stafford – 82, 0, 3
Motorists should observe the following tips to avoid deer collisions:
• Be especially watchful at dawn and dusk when deer are particularly active.
• Watch for more than one deer, as they seldom travel alone.
• Reduce speed and be alert near wooded areas or green spaces such as parks or golf courses and near water sources such as streams or ponds.
• Deer crossing signs show where high levels of deer/vehicle crashes have occurred in the past.
• Use bright lights to help detect deer as far ahead as possible.
• Don’t swerve to avoid hitting a deer – the most serious crashes sometimes occur when motorists swerve and collide with another vehicle or run off the road and hit an obstacle.
• Always wear a seat belt and use appropriate child safety seats. Even if waiting in the car, it is best to wear a seat belt, and have kids in car seats.
If one does hit a deer, here are some additional tips:
• If one hits a deer or other animal, do not worry about the animal. KHP troopers or local law enforcement will worry about removing the animal from the road when they arrive. If it is in the road, make sure to let dispatch know when calling (*47 for KHP; *582 for Turnpike).
• If possible, remain in your vehicle, and remain buckled up, that way if a crash would occur involving the car or another vehicle nearby, one is more protected than if they were out in the roadway or even on the shoulder.
• If one must be outside of the vehicle, make sure it is as far off the road as possible; make sure the hazard lights are activated; don’t stand between the vehicle and another vehicle; and make sure children are kept properly restrained in your vehicle.
• If one has exited your vehicle, it is important to remain very vigilant and watch traffic to make sure they aren’t getting close. If the vehicle has broken down at night, one can wait for law enforcement with extra lights to help make the vehicle more visible to other motorists.
Beware, deer have other things on their minds now besides watching for traffic.
Deer breeding season, also known as the rut, peaks in mid-November, and this marks the period when deer-vehicle collisions are highest. Deer can be spotted near our state’s roadways any time of the year, but, in the fall, motorists should be especially vigilant on the state’s highways, Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir said.
“The number of deer strikes in Barton County is substantial,” Bellendir said. The department investigates approximately one or two deer accidents a week during the slow seasons and more during a rut.
“In this part of Kansas we have noticed deer strikes increase when there is agricultural activity in the field such as harvesting and planting crops particularly during wheat harvest and also during this time of year when soybeans, milo and corn are being harvested,” Bellendir said. “We have been fortunate that we have had no recent fatalities, but on occasion we have injury accidents involving deer.”
He also urges motorcyclists to be particularly mindful of the danger.
Deer strikes are a substantial cause of property loss to motorists in the county, the sheriff said. He estimates that the average deer strike causes $3,000 in damage.
This is why the Kansas Department of Transportation, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and the Kansas Highway Patrol are working together to raise awareness and help drivers avoid collisions with deer.
According to KDWPT biologist Lloyd Fox, the increase in deer-vehicle crashes is strongly influenced by the deer mating season, called “rut.” During rut, deer focus on mating; they travel more than in other seasons, 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.
Not only are deer more active during the fall, shorter days mean dusk and dawn — when deer are more likely to be on the move — occur when commuter traffic is highest. According to KDOT spokesperson Steve Swartz, 14 percent, or 8,104, of all traffic crashes in 2013 involved deer. Six people were killed and 286 were injured in these crashes. 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 331, followed by Johnson County with 282, and Butler County with 259, while 15 counties had fewer than 10 of these types of crashes.
According to KHP Lt. Joshua Kellerman, if one hits a deer, they should slow down and pull onto the shoulder, and turn on their emergency flashers. If they have a cellular phone and are on a Kansas highway, dial *47 (*HP) for a highway patrol dispatcher, *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 or any part of the carcass from a crash site. Tags can be issued by KHP troopers, sheriff’s deputies, or KDWPT game wardens.
If one is involved in a non-injury crash on an interstate, U.S. highway, or any divided or multi-lane road in the state of Kansas, and if they are not transporting hazardous materials, they are required by law to move their vehicle out of the lane of traffic. This law is intended to help keep drivers and passengers safe by getting them out of the lane of traffic and away from oncoming vehicles.