Drivers should watch for deer as crashes rise in late spring

It’s the time of the year for drivers to fear the deer — or at least be aware of the risk they pose on the road.

Deer crash numbers typically increase in May and June, when adult does look for places to give birth and yearling deer separate from their mothers, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

This can prompt deer to venture out onto highways, especially younger deer not road-savvy or used to a life without the guidance of following mom. Drivers need to be vigilant, WisDOT advises.

“Deer become more active at the same time as people do. When you start heading out for spring and summer travel, expect to see deer trying to cross highways. They can be unpredictable, so drivers should always carefully scan the sides of the road ahead, buckle up and put the phone down,” said David Pabst, Wisconsin Bureau of Transportation safety director.

Wisconsin had more than 16,000 crashes involving deer in 2022. Preliminary numbers show five people were killed and more than 500 injured in those incidents. Staying alert is an important step to stay safe this time of year and in fall, when crash numbers are even higher, WisDOT states.

Some tips from WisDOT on how to avoid hitting a deer —

— Most deer crashes happen in the early morning and evening hours. Be sure to use headlights as daylight transitions to dusk and deer become more difficult to see.

— Slow down, eliminate distractions and make sure everyone is buckled up safely. Crash injuries are less severe or can be avoided when everyone wears a seat belt.

— Scan the road ahead carefully. If one deer crosses, watch for more. Honk the horn to frighten away any other animals.

— If hitting the animal can’t be avoided, brake firmly and stay in the same lane. Avoid sudden swerving, which can result in a loss of control of the vehicle and a more serious crash.

— Motorcyclists, not surprisingly, are at a greater risk of injury in a crash involving a deer. Motorcyclists should slow down, brake firmly and, unlike car drivers, swerve if necessary to avoid hitting the deer. But they should try to stay in the same lane, if possible, to avoid hitting other objects or vehicles.

Those who do end up hitting a deer should —

— Get the vehicle safely off the road, if possible.

— If someone is hurt or the deer is in the active portion of the road, call 911. Never attempt to move an injured deer.

— If the vehicle and deer are off the road, also contact 911.

— Stay buckled up inside your vehicle and wait for help. Getting out of your vehicle and walking along a highway is always dangerous.


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