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DOT says potential for deer crashes will be high again this fall

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WISCONSIN (WITI) — In Wisconsin, annual fall rituals include raking leaves, watching football and waiting for repairs to your vehicle after hitting a deer.

October and November are the mating season for deer, and they are more active particularly at dusk and dawn when they move back and forth between their bedding and feeding areas. With their increased activity, deer often will dart unexpectedly into the path of vehicles.

Last year, Wisconsin law enforcement agencies reported a total of 18,895 deer vs. motor vehicle crashes, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). Dane County had the most motor vehicle vs. deer crashes reported in 2012 with 851. Shawano County had the second most with 800 followed by Waukesha County with 710. In Shawano, Green Lake, and Taylor counties, more than half of all reported crashes in 2012 involved deer. Deer are the third most commonly struck object in Wisconsin traffic crashes (behind collisions with another vehicle or a fixed object).

“To avoid hitting a deer, drivers must slow down whenever they see deer in the area. If you see one deer, there are probably more nearby 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, 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 rolling over or hitting another car or a stationary object, like a tree.”

Motorcyclists must be especially careful because deer crashes can be fatal to riders and passengers. Motorcycles were involved in 13 of the 14 fatal deer versus motor vehicle crashes in Wisconsin last year.

WisDOT and the Wisconsin State Patrol safety officials offer the following advice to prevent deer crashes:

  • Be on the lookout for deer, eliminate distractions while driving, and slow down in early morning and evening hours — the most active time for deer.
  • Always wear your safety belt — there are fewer and less severe injuries in vehicle-deer crashes when safety belts are worn.
  • If you see a deer by the side of the road, slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten the deer 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 the deer to move away — headlights can confuse a deer and cause the animal to freeze.
  • Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path.
    • Do not swerve — it can confuse the deer as to where to run — and cause you to lose control and hit a tree or another car.
    • The one exception to the “don’t swerve” advice applies to motorcyclists. On a motorcycle, you should slow down, brake firmly and then swerve if necessary to avoid hitting the deer. If you must swerve, always try to stay within your lane to avoid hitting other objects.
    • 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.
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