About half of all deer-vehicle collisions occur from October through December, which prompts the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to issue its annual “Antler Alert” reminder for motorists to use extra caution as deer go on the move for fall mating season.
In a recent ranking, Kentucky was 13th in the nation for deer population.
Shorter days and cooler nights bring a noticeable upturn in deer-vehicle collisions starting in early October. Autumn farming harvests also work to put deer on the move and make them more likely to come into the path of passing vehicles.
According to KYTC District 1 Chief Engineer Kyle Poat, motorists should use extra caution during the next three months.
“October, November, and December account for about half of the deer-car collisions each year,” Poat said. “Out of Kentucky’s 120 counties, we have several that are ranked in the top 40 for deer collisions statewide. Graves, Marshall, Calloway, and Lyon counties are in the Top 40 for deer-vehicle collisions in 2019. McCracken County hovers just off that top 40 list.”
Traffic engineers attribute the high number of deer-related crashes in those counties to a substantial deer population combined with a high number of 4-lane highway miles.
“This isn’t just about vehicle damage. Statewide, collisions involving deer contribute to about three fatalities each year with deer listed as a contributing factor in more than 200 traffic fatalities nationwide and thousands of crashes that cause injuries to humans,” Poat added.
In 2018, 3,086 deer-vehicle collisions were reported across the Commonwealth, a slight drop from the more than 3,200 reported to police agencies in 2017. Deer crash numbers stayed about the same in 2019 at 3,071. However, that may be only a fraction of the actual crashes involving deer since many are not reported to police.
For the 12th consecutive year, West Virginia topped the deer collision list for 2019. While chances of hitting a deer while driving decreased slightly in recent years, the cost of claims increased by $162 to $4,341, according to figures supplied by State Farm Insurance.
Odds of being involved in a deer collision in Kentucky are 1 in 107, but that likelihood doubles during deer season, from October into December. KYTC offers several driving tips to help improve safety:
· Slow down immediately when you spot a deer crossing the roadway ahead, as deer tend to travel in groups.
· Don’t swerve to avoid a deer. Swerving can result in a more serious crash with an oncoming vehicle or roadside object.
· In the event of a crash, keep both hands on the wheel and apply brakes steadily until stopped.
· Always wear a safety belt.
· Keep headlights on bright unless other vehicles are approaching.
· Avoid use of your cell phone while driving.
· Drive defensively, constantly scanning the roadside, especially at dawn and dusk when deer are most active.
Motorists are asked to report all deer-auto collisions to police. Traffic engineers use the crash data to aid in the placement of deer crossing warning signs and other safety measures.