(Photo by Anthony Schalk)
It's time for our annual fall reminder to be extra vigilant for deer on and around area roadways.
The peak mating season for deer is approaching, and one of the unfortunate side effects of that is more collisions with them on local roads.
The peak mating season – called a rut – for white-tailed deer across Illinois is late October to mid-November. During this time, deer tend to move about more freely, causing an uptick in collisions with vehicles. Collisions with vehicles is second only to hunting in causes of deer mortality in Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
"Although a collision with a deer can happen any time of year, we are entering peak season," Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said in a new release. "Deer can often appear suddenly in some surprising environments, so you are urged to be on alert. Slow down, pay attention in areas where they are known to travel and remember — don’t veer for deer. While the urge to swerve is instinctual, it could cause you to lose control of your vehicle and increase the severity of a crash."
Fall is the season with the most vehicle crashes involving deer, with more than 43% of deer-vehicle collisions occurring in October, November and December, IDNR and the Illinois Department of Transportation reported in a news release. November is the month with the highest risk of striking a deer while driving.
In 2020, 13,787 motor vehicle crashes in Illinois involved deer, according to the news release. Of these, 13,166 caused damage to property or vehicles, while 611 also resulted in injuries. Ten of the crashes were fatal.
Collisions with deer are most common in rural areas of Illinois, but many counties with urban, suburban and rural areas are among those with frequent deer-vehicle collisions. Will County ranks third on the list of Illinois counties with crashes involving deer, with 322 recorded in 2020, according to IDNR and IDOT. The county with the most deer collisions in 2020 was Cook County, with 469. Other counties in the top five were Madison, Sangamon and Peoria counties.
Deer are crepuscular, which means they are more active at dusk and dawn. Because of this, most accidents with deer happen between 5 and 8 a.m. and 5 and 10 p.m., according to Wildlife Illinois.
Deer collisions in the fall are enough of a public safety problem that the state has devised the "Don't veer for deer" driving strategy to help keep drivers safe. The state advises drivers to take note of deer crossing road signs, as these indicate areas where deer are more likely to be seen. Of course, avoiding hitting the deer is always the best option, and the state has some tips for drivers to make them more aware and help them steer clear of collisions:
- Slow down if you see a deer. They often travel in groups, so if you see one it’s likely others are nearby.
- Scan the sides of the road for the shining eyes of deer. Their eyes will reflect your headlights, so you may see them before they enter the roadway.
- Be prepared for the unexpected. Deer often stop in the road or change directions and double back. Even if you think the coast is clear, proceed with caution.
In the event you do hit a deer, pull your car off to the shoulder if possible and turn on your hazard lights, the state advises. Call 911 to report the accident and request emergency assistance. Do not exit your car to try to check on the deer or remove it from the road.
While fall is the time drivers are most likely to encounter deer on roadways, spring also poses problems. Around May and June each year, mother deer and their fawns start moving about more, and the young deer often move to new areas, posing risks near roads, according to Wildlife Illinois.
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