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Drivers beware: Potential for deer crashes will be high again this fall

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MILWAUKEE — Even when hunters have a difficult time finding deer in the woods, the elusive creatures may still be prevalent on Wisconsin roads.

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 18,312 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 2014 with 863. Shawano County had the second most with 725 followed by Waukesha County with 700. In Shawano and Green Lake counties, more than half of all reported crashes in 2014 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 should slow down whenever you see them nearby. If you see one deer, there are probably more in the area,” 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. You may end up 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 eight of the 10 fatal deer vs. motor vehicle crashes in Wisconsin last year.

“The one exception to the ‘don’t swerve’ recommendation 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 offer the following advice to prevent deer crashes:

  • 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 seat 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.
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