KDOT reminds motorists: it’s no deer or ‘Oh, dear’

The Kansas Department of Transportation reminds drivers that the mating season and the quest for more secure habitat have deer on the move this time of year, increasing the chances of vehicle collisions.

According to KDOT statistics, Marion County reported 122 accidents in 2016, resulting in three injuries but no human fatalities. Statewide, Marion County ranks 29th among the 102 counties.

Typically, the greatest number of deer-vehicle crashes are in mid-Novem­ber when the rut, or mating season, peaks. In addition to the rut, deer also are on the move in mid-fall seeking new food sources and shelter as crops are harvested and leaves fall from trees and shrubs, leaving them less secure than in their summer habitats.

“The deer population has stabilized over the last five years, so areas that have had deer likely still have them,” said Levi Jaster, big-game coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

“Young animals are dispersing to find new areas and breeding season is approaching,” he said. “More animals moving means more of them are going to be crossing roads, so be extra cautious and reduce speed, especially in areas with good deer habitat.”

According to KDOT, 10,235, or 16 percent, of the 62,150 vehicle crashes reported in 2016 were deer-related—crashes in which a deer and vehicle actually collided or the presence of a deer was a contributing circumstance.

Although crashes involving deer occur throughout the year in every Kansas county, the highest number of crashes typically occur in counties with the most vehicles. Butler County had 385 deer-vehicle crashes in 2016, the most of any county; Sedgwick County followed with 375. Kansas Highway Patrol officials caution drivers to refrain from making exaggerated maneuvers to avoid a deer in the road, lest a bad situation become even worse.

“If you are unfortunate enough to have a deer enter the highway in front of your car, it is best to hit the animal and not swerve to avoid it,” said KHP Lt. Adam Winters.

“Often we find more serious crashes occur when you swerve to miss the deer, potentially losing control of your vehicle, leaving the road or veering into oncoming traffic.”

Statewide, of the 10,242 accidents tallied in 2016, 597 people were injured and seven people died.