KDOT to motorists Be on the lookout for deer in your headlights

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN
The Kansas Department of Transportation is reminding motorists that they are in the middle of the peak season for deer/vehicle accidents.

“November has the highest numbers of deer/vehicle crashes in Kansas with a peak of up to 700 in a single day on Nov. 17,” said Alisa Babler, senior traffic engine, who is on a committee studying methods to reduce deer-vehicle crashes.

Annually, about 10,000 crashes in Kansas are deer related, she said.

One reason for the increase is the deer mating season. Deer tend to be particularly active from November through December.

In addition, deer tend to widen their foraging range as they build up their fat reserves for the winter. The increase in deer/vehicle crashes is partially a result of higher traffic volumes, higher vehicle speed, and the reduction in daylight hours during fall and winter.

According to KDOT, Kansans today are seven times more likely to collide with a deer while driving than in 1980. In 2004, 9,944 deer/ vehicle crashes occurred in the state, or 13 percent of the total vehicle crashes reported. Only 1,395 deer/vehicle crashes occurred in 1980.

KDOT continually is looking for ways to reduce the number of such crashes, according to Babler. Near Topeka, an ongoing KDOT pilot project on Kansas Highway 4 is evaluating the effectiveness of deer warning reflectors on reducing crashes.

The half-mile test area is just north of the K-4 and U.S. 24 junction in Shawnee County.

During dusk to dawn, headlights from passing vehicles strike the reflectors, reflecting red light away from the roadway.

The light pattern moves as vehicles approach and appears unnatural to deer.

 ”We recently installed new warning reflectors at the top of metal poles located near the K-4 test area,” said Babler.

“When vehicle headlights are reflected at an angle away from the road, deer perceive the light as movement and they may be deterred from crossing.”

Although KDOT continues to examine methods to reduce deer-vehicle crashes, motorists have the most important role in avoiding collisions by observing the following safety tips:

  • Be especially watchful at dawn and dusk when deer are particularly active.
  • Reduce your speed and be alert near wooded areas or green spaces like parks or golf course and near water sources like streams or ponds.
  • Don’t swerve to avoid deer collisions. The most serious accidents occur when motorists take evasive action.
  • Watch out for deer crossing signs and always wear a safety belt.
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