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Deer/auto accidents peak on Nov. 17


November 14, 2002

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information, contact:
Rosalie Thornburgh, KDOT Bureau of Traffic Safety: (785) 296-3756
Lloyd Fox, Department of Wildlife and Parks: (620) 342-0658

Deer/auto accidents peak on Nov. 17

KDOT urges motorists to be extra vigilant

We’ve all heard of the deer in the headlights look.

Drivers in Kansas are increasingly likely to experience that look firsthand, as the number of deer/automobile collisions continues to escalate. And if history is a guide, then Kansans should be on particularly high alert on Deer D-Day -- Nov. 17 -- historically the day deer/automobile collisions peak in the state.

“During the past decade, an average of 700 deer/vehicle collisions have occurred on November 17, resulting in deaths, injuries and millions of dollars in property damage,” said Rosalie Thornburgh, chief of the Kansas Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Traffic Safety. “And annually, more than 10,000 collisons are deer related.”

So what’s special about November 17?

First, deer mating, or rut season, when deer tend to be particularly active, runs from November through December. In addition, deer tend to widen their foraging range as they build up their fat reserves for the winter. And, they often migrate from one foraging range to another during the early winter, exposing themselves to risks, like highways, with which they might not be very familiar.

“An inordinately high deer population also makes deer/vehicle accidents more likely,” said Lloyd Fox, big game program coordinator for Kansas Wildlife & Parks. “The number of deer in Kansas fluctuates from between 350,000 to 400,000.”

The increase in deer/automobile accidents is partially a result of higher traffic volumes, higher vehicle speed, and the reduction in daylight hours during fall and winter.

A graphical view of the statistics

According to KDOT, Kansans today are seven times more likely to collide with a deer while driving than in 1980. In 2001, 10,184 deer-vehicle accidents occurred in the state, or 13 percent of the total vehicle accidents reported. While no fatalities resulted, 418 persons were injured. There were only 1,395 deer/auto crashes in 1980.

The increase in crashes involving deer in Kansas mirrors a nationwide trend. Last year, there were about 1.5 million deer-automobile collisions in the U.S. More than 29,000 people were injured and 200 died. Property damage topped $1 billion.

KDOT encourages motorists to observe the following tips to avoid deer collisions:

  • Deer seldom travel alone. Chances are that if you see one deer crossing a road, there are others nearby
  • Be especially watchful at dawn and dusk when deer are particularly active
  • Reduce your speed and be alert near wooded areas or green spaces like parks or golf courses and near water sources like streams or ponds
  • Don’t swerve to avoid a collision with a deer. The most serious accidents occur when motorists are taking evasive action, which can lead to a loss of control of the car
  • Watch out for deer crossing signs, and always wear a seat belt
  • When driving at night use high-beams when there is no oncoming traffic, as they are more likely to reveal a deer’s eyes

Remember, you are the best deer detector. Be alert of confronting deer on any highway in Kansas. That’s Kansas driving: Safe. Not Sorry.

KDOT is a member of the Governor’s Substance Abuse Prevention Council united in the vision that Kansas communities become places where all children are safe, protected, nurtured, and supported in reaching their fullest potential.