(Photo courtesy of Amy Miller via Will County Wildlife)
It’s mating season for deer, and one of the unfortunate side effects of that is more collisions with them on our roadways.
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.
In fact, 41 percent of all Illinois vehicle crashes involving deer in 2016 occurred in October, November and December, when mating season is at its peak, according to a release from the Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois Department of Natural Resources. November is the month with the highest number of crashes involving deer.
Deer collisions in the fall are enough of a public safety problem that the state has devised a driving strategy to help keep drivers safe: “Don’t veer for deer.”
A driver’s instinct is to swerve out of the way of a deer that darts out into the roadway, but that action can cause a more severe crash if the driver hits another vehicle. Drivers should instead fight that instinct, even if it means hitting the deer, according to the IDOT and IDNR release.
Dusk is the most common time of day for car accidents involving deer, with accidents occurring most often between 6 and 9 p.m. 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.
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. In fact, Will County ranks third on the list of counties with crashes involving deer, with 389 recorded in 2016, according to the state. The county with the most deer collisions was Cook County, with 439.
Although it may seem like Illinois is a common site for deer collisions, it’s not even in the top 10 among states, according to State Farm’s 16th annual deer-vehicle collision study. West Virginia is the state where drivers are most likely to experience a collision with a deer, elk, moose or caribou. Illinois ranks 32nd, according to State Farm, with drivers having a 1 in 200 chance of having an insurance claim as the result of hitting a deer. But no matter what, it’s always best to use caution and stay aware since you never know when the odds will work against you.
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