State officials warn of deer-vehicle crashes

State officials urge motorists to take precautions to avoid deer-vehicle collisions, especially during the fall months when most crashes occur. The peak time for deer herd movement — and the danger of crashes — occurs in early to mid-November.

“Although deer-vehicle collisions can cause extensive vehicle damage, most serious injuries and fatalities are caused by drivers taking evasive action,” said Kathy Swanson, director of DPS’ Office of Traffic Safety. “Drivers need to avoid swerving into oncoming traffic or leaving the road, which can cause them to hit a tree or other roadside object.”

Swanson advises that motorists facing an unavoidable crash with a deer to resist the instinct to swerve out of their traffic lane or leave the roadway.

“It’s safer to hit a deer than to risk hitting another vehicle or roadside object,” she said. “Apply your brakes firmly, hold onto the steering wheel and bring your vehicle to a controlled stop.”

If a vehicle hits a deer, Swanson advises removing it from the roadway only when certain that the animal is dead. Drivers can improve their safety by following these suggestions:

• Slow down and prepare to stop as soon as you see a deer. It is much safer to stop than to take evasive action.

• When you see a deer, watch for additional animals. Deer are herd animals and frequently move in groups.

• Deer travel most often at dawn and at dusk. Most deer-vehicle crashes occur just before sunset to just after sunrise. Deer eyes may reflect in your headlights. Watch for them. For maximum safety, assume that deer will cross your path.

• If you hit a deer, call 9-1-1. Law enforcement officers will assist with injuries and write a report to provide to your insurance company.

• It is illegal to take a deer without an authorization permit. If you hit a deer or find a deer carcass, you must obtain a permit to tag the deer before it can be legally transported. All law enforcement officers can issue such a permit.

• Drive at safe speeds. The posted speed limit is the speed limit.

• Use seatbelts; in case of a crash, a seatbelt is the best defense.

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