Woodland wooing menaces motorists

Harvest and rut season have whitetail deer, especially the bucks, on the move this time of year and more likely to be on or near roadways.

start to see more car/deer accidents,” McCauley said.

Each year, there are more than 1.5 million crashes involving deer, causing an estimated $1.1 billion in vehicle damage, 200 human lives lost, and more than 10,000 injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A single accident with a deer averages $2,000 damage to the vehicle and catastrophic results for the deer.

Deer linger in open, harvested fields this time of year, feeding on corn and soybeans the combine missed or spilled, and that can put them nearer roads.

Plus, cooler weather, moonlight and changes in barometric pressure contribute to deer wandering onto roadways.

Deer move more at night when the moon is full and may also move a bit more in daylight hours during a new moon, when it’s darker at night, McCauley said.

Higher barometric pressure, like after a weather front moves through, makes bucks restless and prone to roam further afield. They are looking for mates or for other bucks to fight for dominance.

These factors combine to make it impossible to know when a deer, or an entire herd, might leap from behind a bush or out of a ditch and into the path of a vehicle.

But statistics show they are typically most active at dusk and dawn, when headlights are less effective, and when most people are commuting to and from work.

“This is the time of year to be on the lookout at all times in rural areas and even in some urban areas,” McCauley said. “A lot of the time, if you’re anticipating there to be deer, your reaction time is going to be better if you see one.

“Part of being a good driver is being observant and aware of your surroundings,” he said, adding, “If you see one, be on the lookout for more. They could be chasing each other or grouped up in the dark and waiting to cross where you can’t see them. If you see one, put on your breaks and be looking on both sides of the road. Move with caution.”

“Never swerve to avoid hitting a dear, braking and hitting the deer is safer than swerving off the road or into oncoming traffic,” the DNR publication “Deer-Vehicle Collisions and You,” warns.

McCauley acknowledged that drivers may want to swerve and said some situations may warrant swerving. But swerving could cause a motorist to instead crash with an oncoming vehicle, a tree, or a utility pole.

Swerving doesn’t guarantee a path around the deer anyway, he said, adding, “Deer change their minds at the last minute and decide to go back, and that’s when they get hit.”

There were more than 15,000 deer-related collisions in Indiana last year, the Associated Press reported.

The chance of being in a deer-related accident doubles in the fall, with the most claims filed in November, followed by October and December, according to a study done by State Farm Insurance.

Indiana is a high-risk state for deer collisions, as are it’ immediate neighbors, except Illinois, which is a medium-risk state.

Chances are 1 in 147 of hitting a deer in Indiana and 1 in 200 in Illinois, according to the study.

West Virginia has the highest risk in the country at 1 in 47, and Hawaii has the least risk at 1 in 6,379. Californian drivers have the next least risk at 1 in 1,125.

The Boone County Emergency Dispatch Center received 11 calls for service regarding deer/vehicle crashes from Nov. 15-20.

Seven of them were in the western half of the county, and four were in the Zionsville area.

Of those reported, two were at 2795 S. U.S. 421, and two were also logged at C.R. 350 W.

Eight occurred after noon, the bulk ranging from 4:45 to 6:57 p.m., and the other three occurred between 12:30 and 1:40 a.m.

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