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Commuters can expect to see a rise in deer related crashes

May 5, 2011

It is a sight that commuters driving to UW-River Falls may have seen: The carcass of a struck deer lying in the ditch or spread across the pavement. According to an expert on deer-vehicle crash data, that sight is about to become more common.

Most deer-related crashes occur during mating season between October and November, but a second peak of crashes typically occurs in May and June when fawns spread out in search of new ranges, said Donald Lyden, a research analyst for the Wisconsin Bureau of Transportation Safety.

“It makes me nervous when I see it, especially driving home later in the day when no one is on the road,” said Andrew Mayfield, a student at UWRF. “You never know when something is going to jump out at you.”

Mayfield, a resident of Oakdale, Minn., is one of the thousands of UWRF students who, along with hundreds of faculty and staff, commute to the university on a regular basis. By driving on the rural highways that lead to campus, commuters risk injury or death from collisions with deer.
Law enforcement reported 2,806 vehicle-deer crashes in May and June of 2009, which accounted for more than 17 percent of all vehicle-deer crashes that year, according to an online fact sheet composed of the most recent data compiled by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

“In eight of the last 14 years, June ranked as the worst or second worst month for injuries,” according to the fact sheet.

Commuters traveling in the early morning or evening hours face the greatest risk of hitting a deer.

According to the fact sheet, in 2009 most springtime crashes occurred in the dawn hours from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., and after dusk from 8 p.m. to midnight.

Lyden said there are tips drivers can use to reduce the risk of hitting a deer.

“The important thing to do is to drive the speed limit, and always be on the lookout for deer,” he said. “If you see one deer, there are a probably more.”

Lyden also said that drivers could help avoid injury in a vehicle-deer crash by always buckling their seatbelt.

According to the fact sheet, motorcyclists need to be especially cautious of deer.

More than 75 percent of all deer-related motorcycle crashes in 2009 resulted in injury or death, compared to less than four percent of people driving in cars. Of the seven deaths caused by vehicle-deer crashes in 2009, five were of motorcyclists.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website, If a driver hits a deer, it is recommended that they contact law enforcement and report the accident.

If the crash is serious enough, drivers are required by law to report it.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation website, a crash that involves the death or injury of a person, causes $1,000 worth of damage to private property or causes $200 worth of damage to nonvehicle government property needs to be reported to police.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation vehicle-deer fact sheet can be viewed at http://1.usa.gov/hnuWZM.