Deer add to driving hazards

Danger is greatest this month

By The Mercury

The Manhattan woman who died from injuries she suffered in an automobile accident Sunday on Interstate 70 might not have been killed by a deer, but she’d be alive today if the car she was in hadn’t encountered one.

The woman, Dale Colleen Williams, was a passenger in a car that collided with a deer. She had gotten out of the damaged car, which was in a westbound lane, and was standing near it when another car struck the damaged car, forcing it into her.

If the deer is an afterthought, it shouldn’t be. Deer like the one in the path of the car on I-70 Sunday caused or at least were contributing factors in about 8,700 crashes in Kansas last year, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation.  That’s 15 percent of all of the auto crashes in the state. No doubt there were numerous close calls.

Sadly, Ms. Williams wasn’t the only Kansan killed in an accident involving a deer over the weekend. In Sheridan County, a driver trying to avoid a deer was killed in a rollover accident, and in Osage County, a Lawrence man, who, like Ms. Williams, survived the collision with a deer, was subsequently struck and killed by another vehicle.

Last year just two Kansans were killed in accidents involving deer.

Traffic accidents involving deer occur any time of the year, but for multiple reasons, now is the most dangerous time of year. For starters, it’s mating season for deer — the “rut.” As a result, deer are more active, and given that they’re more attentive to other deer, are less attentive to moving vehicles. Another factor, notes the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, is the reduced daylight of November and December. Dawn and dusk, when deer are commonly active, are also when highways and other roads are often the busiest.

Not coincidentally, the greatest number of vehicle-deer accidents occur in heavily populated counties. Last year, there were 304 such accidents in Johnson County and 293 in Sedgwick County,

To avoid colliding with a deer, alertness — especially at dawn and dusk —may be the best precaution. Deer often travel together, which might help you spot them but it means can be more than one to avoid. Heed deer crossing signs and drive more slowly in wooded or open areas.

Also, although the instinct might be to swerve to avoid a deer, resist it. Swerving contributes to even more serious accidents, sometimes involving other vehicles or the loss of control of your vehicle. And if you hit a deer, pull over to the shoulder, turn on your flashers and call for assistance.

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