TOPEKA -- Deer can be spotted near our state's roadways any time of the year. But in the fall, motorists should be especially vigilant for deer crossing our highways. Deer breeding season peaks in the middle of November, and this marks the period when deer and car crashes are the highest. That's why the Department of Transportation and the Highway Patrol are joining with Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to raise our awareness and help drivers avoid collisions with deer.
Lloyd Fox, a biologist with Wildlife and Parks, says the increase in deer-vehicle crashes is influenced by the "rut" mating season. During rut, deer focus on the mating; they travel more than in other seasons, and pay less attention to hazards like cars, trucks and SUVs on the highway. Also during the fall, many deer move to new locations as crops are harvested and leaves are falling from the trees; so they're less secure than in their habitats for the summer.
Not only are deer more active in the fall, but our shorter days mean dusk and dawn -- when deer are more likely to be on the move -- happen when commuter traffic is highest. KDOT says 9,109 deer-vehicles crashes were reported to them last year. Deer collisions happen in all our 105 counties. In most cases, counties with higher people populations and high traffic volumes record the most crashes. Sedgwick County recorded the most with 391, followed by Johnson County (346) and then Butler County with 287.
Observe these tips to avoid colliding with deer:
* Be watchful at dawn and dusk when deer are very active.
* Watch for more than one deer. They seldom travel alone.
* Reduce your speed and be alert near wooded areas or green spaces, such as parks or golf course. That also applies near water sources like streams or ponds.
* Don't swerve to avoid hitting a deer -- the most serious accidents happen when motorists swerve and collide with another vehicle.
* Heed the deer crossing signs.
* And always wear your seat belt.
If you're involved in a vehicle crash with a deer that results in personal injury or property damage totalling at least $1,000, you must immediately reported the crash to your nearest law enforcement agency. Failing to report any traffic crash is a misdemeanor and could result in the suspension of your driving privileges!