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Opinion | Voice of The Southern

Voice of The Southern: Some tips to avoid deer-related crashes this fall
Voice of The Southern

Voice of The Southern: Some tips to avoid deer-related crashes this fall

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This editorial is being published in conjunction with Lee Enterprises' Illinois newspapers.

It's always a good reminder during autumn to keep an eye when on the road as farmers use machinery, often slow-moving and oversized, for transport of harvests. Also present on the roads in the fall is another danger to life, limb and automobile — deer, particularly during mating season.

The peak season for deer-related accidents runs from October through December, with a spike in collisions with vehicles usually in mid-November.

Deer also are on the move because seasonal changes affect their summer habitats. When crops are harvested and leaves fall from trees and shrubs, deer start looking for new locations.

Combined, they can prove to be a fatal mix of man versus nature. In Illinois, drivers have a 1 in 144 chance of a collision with an animal.

In Jackson County in 2019, 288 accidents involved deer. The county ranked ninth in the state with that grim statistic. Those accidents resulted in property damage in 272 cases. There were 16 injuries.

While there is no guaranteed way to prevent a deer-related accident, law enforcement officers offer tips.

• Deer are particularly active during dawn and dusk. Watch for more than one, as deer often travel in groups.

• Reduce speed and be alert near wooded areas or green spaces, such as golf courses or parks, and near water sources, such as streams or ponds.

• Heed warnings in deer-crossing signs that show areas where high numbers of vehicle-deer crashes have occurred in the past.

• Use bright lights at night to help see deer as far ahead as possible.

• When deer appear in the road, don’t swerve to miss them. Swerving can cause a vehicle to veer into the oncoming lane of traffic or roll in the ditch, which can be far more dangerous than hitting the deer.

• Make sure everyone in the vehicle is buckled up, a proven lifesaver in crashes of any kind.

• Motorcyclists operating after sunset need to use extreme caution. Motorcyclists should reduce their speed after sunset, use their bright headlight when possible, and protect themselves by wearing a helmet and adequate motorcycle attire.

• Do not rely on car-mounted deer whistles. Studies show deer are not affected by these devices.

When a collision with a deer occurs, motorists should follow additional tips:

• Move the vehicle to the shoulder if possible and call law enforcement.

• Don’t attempt to move the deer. Law enforcement officers can remove it from the road when they arrive. Don’t go near a wounded animal, which can be frightened and unpredictable.

• Turn on hazard lights and remain buckled up inside the vehicle. It is important to stay protected in case there is a secondary crash.

• If it is necessary to be outside the vehicle, keep it as far off the road as possible, and don’t stand between vehicles if there is another one close by. Keep children buckled and in car seats. Watch closely for traffic.

• Some deer-vehicle crashes simply can’t be avoided. Through greater awareness and common sense, motorists at least can improve their chances of avoiding these dangerous encounters on the road. Be alert and stay safe.

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