This time of year it is not uncommon to see deer running beside Iowa’s highways. Field and Stream.com (http://www.fieldandstream.com/rut-report) shows deer in many parts of Iowa are currently in the “seeking and chasing” phase of the annual rut. That means more animals on the move and more danger to motorists, especially at dusk and dawn when it is more difficult to see animals along the roadsides.
There is little a driver can do about deer movement, but to reach the goal of zero fatalities on Iowa highways drivers need to be more aware of deer habits to reduce the risk of coming in contact with deer. As of Oct. 15, Iowa Department of Transportation data shows, 3,279 drivers reported collisions with deer so far in 2013. These crashes resulted in four motorist deaths and an estimated 172 injuries. Since 2003, 70 people have died in Iowa as a result of motor vehicle crashes involving animals. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, each year nearly 200 fatalities nationwide are caused by deer-vehicle collisions.
If a deer runs into the path of your vehicle, not veering to avoid the animal greatly increases the chances of maintaining control of your vehicle. Most deer crash injuries and deaths result when drivers attempt to avoid the animal. This action often results in drivers losing control and colliding with other vehicles or running off the road.
When a deer is in the path of your vehicle, the driver of a vehicle (other than a motorcycle) should:
- Brake firmly.
- Steer to maintain control.
- Stop safely within the lane or along the shoulder of the highway.
- Use a safety belt to reduce the chance of personal injury.
The following motor vehicle driver tips will reduce the risk of deer crashes.
- Slow down when you see a deer warning sign – pay greater attention.
- Be especially careful driving at dawn and dusk.
- Remember deer rutting season occurs in November and December, and deer are more mobile and less cautious.
- Deer are more mobile during harvest and the hunting season.
- Be most alert for the presence of deer at locations where three factors converge:
- Food (corn fields or recently harvested corn fields).
- Shelter (woods).
- Water (streams, culverts and river crossings).