Deer dodge

10/16/2013

Stay vigilant in avoiding annual hazard on highways.

Stay vigilant in avoiding annual hazard on highways.

It's time again for deer to be out and about, and more often in the path of motorists.

The Kansas Highway Patrol recently issued its annual reminder for Kansas travelers to be even more vigilant.

The high season for deer-related accidents runs from October through December. Deer-related collisions increase in frequency in mid-November, when the deer breeding season peaks, and while they move to new locations as crops are harvested and their habitats become less secure.

Costs climb as a result of the highway hazard.

The Kansas Department of Transportation reported 15 percent of all traffic crashes in 2012 involved deer.

Beyond the danger to motorists, the annual expense of vehicle repair and other property damage — plus law enforcement resources needed to cover wrecks — point to a need for continued pursuit of ways to lessen the threat by culling a deer population estimated at about 650,000 in 2012.

To that end, the Kansas Legislature approved a pre-rut, antlerless whitetail deer hunt, which recently took place. Another sensible strategy before the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism would be in discounted permits for younger hunters to encourage their participation.

While no strategy will erase the deer danger, law enforcement officers do offer ways to be safer on the road.

The best strategy is to be aware of areas that pose danger — most are marked by signs — and to drive slowly and watch both sides of the road, particularly around wooded areas and other places deer would frequent.

Deer often travel in groups. When one crosses the road, there may be others to follow, so it's necessary to slow down and watch carefully.

Motorists also should not swerve to miss deer in their path. Doing so can cause drivers to veer into the oncoming lane of traffic or roll in the ditch, which can be far more dangerous than hitting the deer.

Even as the state seeks new ways to cull the state's deer population — and new strategies are in order — motorists' common sense and awareness will remain the best defense against nasty, costly encounters with deer on the move.

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