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Deer crashes at 6-year-high, likely to increase

Staff writer

Already at a six-year high, traffic accidents involving deer are likely to increase in coming weeks as deer mating season reaches its peak.

According to a Record analysis of accident reports from the past 12 months, Marion County drivers hit a deer on average once every 59 hours.

Deer accidents account for more than 44% of all crashes — urban and rural combined — in the county. That compares with 37% of all crashes statewide.

Although human injuries are relatively rare in Marion County accidents, six people died and 575 others were injured in deer crashes statewide in 2022, according to Kansas Department of Transportation.

Crashes can and do occur every week of the year and every hour of the day but tend to peak during November and, to a lesser extent, December, during rutting season.

According to KDOT and the Record’s analysis of Marion County accidents, peak times are around dusk and dawn, when deer are more active.

KDOT recommends that drivers be especially alert and reduce speed near wooded areas and green spaces, especially if those areas are close to water sources like streams and ponds.

Deer seldom travel alone, so drivers who see one deer should be especially alert for others that might be traveling with them.

Signs warning of deer crossings tend to be placed in areas where the largest number of collisions have occurred in the past, but KDOT warns that accidents can happen anywhere, even on city streets.

Marion County Sheriff Jeff Soyez can attest to that. While driving his Chevrolet Tahoe patrol vehicle at 12:33 a.m. April 13, he struck a deer on Main St. in Marion, just west of Arbor St.

To guard against deer strikes, KDOT recommends using high-beam headlights when oncoming traffic isn’t present and looking for the brightly reflective eyes of deer along the roadway.

Swerving to avoid deer actually is a bad idea, experts say. While a deer accident can result in damage, more serious crashes tend to occur when drivers try to avoid deer.

A vehicle driving into oncoming traffic or into a ditch, then striking a fixed object or rolling, can result in greater damage and injury.

Nearly all deer collisions should be reported to authorities because most will result in damage of at least $1,000.

If you hit a deer, KDOT recommends moving your vehicle to the shoulder, remaining in it with your seat belt fastened, turning on your vehicle’s hazard lights, then calling 911.

Kansas is home to an estimated 699,400 deer, the vast majority of them being whitetails. That population is down slightly from its peak in 2000.

Last modified Nov. 2, 2023

 

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