Deer-related accidents increase in the fall

Published 6:08 pm Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The arrival of autumn signifies the approaching end of another year as nature prepares for winter dormancy. However, with beautiful fall colors also comes an increase in vehicles encountering deer in roadways.

Drivers should be aware of deer throughout the year, but the months of October through December bring a spike in deer-related accidents. Shorter periods of daylight and cooler temperatures trigger the deer breeding season – known as the “rut” – putting whitetails on the move.

“November is usually the top month of deer activity due to the rut,” said Kyle Sams, acting deer and elk program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

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With an estimated 900,000 animals in the state’s herd, drivers should remain alert during this time of year. In Kentucky, there are about 3,000 deer-vehicle collisions reported each year.

“It’s always a good idea to stay mindful that an encounter with a deer could happen at any time,” Sams said. “In general, deer are more active at night, but rutting season changes things. Dawn and dusk are the most likely hours to see deer on the roads, but they’re still going to be more active during daylight hours than usual.”

Proceed with caution when passing through rural areas and known deer crossing areas marked with yellow highway signs showing a deer silhouette. Use your headlights on high-beam at night when there is no oncoming traffic. If you cannot see the deer itself, you may be able to see the reflection from its eyes.

If you encounter a deer on the road, slow down and only take evasive action if it can be done safely. Dimming your lights may also help the deer see your vehicle and avoid it. Stay alert, as one deer is often followed by others.

“When people encounter a deer on the road, it can be instinctive to veer away or slam on the brakes,” Sams said. “We want to stress that if you do come across a deer while driving, hitting the animal is a better option than swerving into traffic, or worse.

“If you find yourself in that situation and hit a deer, make sure everyone is unharmed and turn on your vehicle’s emergency flashers. If possible, drive your vehicle onto the shoulder or another spot safely out of the flow of traffic. Determine your location and call 9-1-1.”