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State experts offer tips to avoid deer collisions over rutting season

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – Helpful tips to avoid hitting deer on Kansas roadways during the annual mating season have been given by state experts.

As the days get shorter and the weather turns cooler, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks says the breeding season for deer will begin. Traveling through pastures, roadways, rivers and streams, it said male white-tailed and mule deer will start an almost month-long hunt for a suitable mate, stopping for very little, including drivers.

Commonly referred to as “rutting season,” KDWP said fall marks the distinct period when deer-vehicle collisions are most frequent, and Kansas is no exception. That is why the Kansas Highway Patrol, Kansas Department of Transportation, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and AAA Kansas offer helpful tips to keep drivers safe as they navigate Kansas roadways and potentially avoid collisions with deer.

“If you are unfortunate enough to have a deer enter the highway in front of your car, it is best to hit the animal and not swerve to avoid it,” said KHP Lieutenant Candice Breshears. “Often, we find more serious crashes occur when you swerve to miss the deer, potentially losing control of your vehicle, leaving the road or veering into oncoming traffic.”

While the vast majority of deer-vehicle accidents do not end in serious injury, KDWP said data collected by KDOT shows that from 2011-2019, 51 people were killed in Kansas crashes that involved deer.

“In addition to potentially causing human injuries and loss of life, deer collisions often cause significant vehicle damage that can lead to large expenses for the vehicle owner if not properly insured,” said Shawn Steward, public and government affairs manager for AAA Kansas. “Of the animal strikes reported by AAA Insurance policyholders in 2020, the average cost per claim was nearly $5,500, an increase of more than $1,000 per claim from 2019.”

Steward said he attributes the higher repair costs to advanced driver assistance technology and expensive sensors and calibration requirements in newer vehicles.

To avoid a costly trip to the repair shop, or worse, KDWP said to follow the tips below:

  • Be watchful at dawn and dusk when deer are more active.
  • If you see one deer, expect more as they seldom travel alone.
  • Drive slower and be extra careful near wooded areas or green spaces like parks and golf courses, as well as near water sources like streams and ponds.
  • Deer crossing signs indicate areas where high numbers of vehicle-deer crashes happen; heed these warnings.
  • Use bright lights when there is no oncoming traffic and scan the road ahead for the reflective eyes of deer.
  • Do not swerve to avoid hitting a deer, the most serious crashes sometimes happen when drivers veer and hit another car or run off the road and hit an obstacle.
  • Always wear a seatbelt and use appropriately fitted child safety seats as they are the best defense in a crash.
  • Honk the horn of your car one long time to frighten large animals like deer away from the road.
  • If a crash does happen, move the vehicle to the shoulder of the road if possible, and call law enforcement
    • KHP dispatch can be reached at *47
    • Kansas Turnpike can be reached at *KTA
    • Local law enforcement can be reached at 911

KDWP said anyone involved in a deer-vehicle collision that results in injury or property damage totaling over $1,000 or more is required to immediately report the accident to the nearest law enforcement agency. It said failure to do so is a misdemeanor and could result in the suspension of driving privileges.

To remove a deer body, or any part of a deer, from a crash site, a salvage tag will be required first. Salvage tags can be issued by KHP troopers, sheriff’s deputies or KDWP game wardens.

This fall, KDWP said drivers can ensure the holiday traffic they encounter will remain as safe as possible, for humans and deer, by simply staying alert and slowing down.

Copyright 2021 WIBW. All rights reserved.

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