In May, two motorcyclists died in collisions with deer in Nodaway and Audrain counties. In June, another motorcyclist died when he hit a deer in Jefferson County. Last October, a motorist lost his life when his car struck a deer on I-70 in Cooper County and he lost control of the vehicle.
Although fatal deer-automobile accidents are uncommon, these incidents illustrate the danger faced by drivers throughout the United States.
Nationwide, deer-vehicle accidents claim approximately 120 human lives annually.
Reports gathered by the Missouri Departments of Conservation, the Highway Patrol and the Highway and Transportation Department show that approximately 9,000 deer-vehicle collisions are reported each year. This is fewer deer/car accidents than some other states. Wisconsin has about 45,000 annually, and more than 65,000 Michigan motorists hit deer each year. Effective deer population control -- provided free by hunters-- make the Show-Me State relatively safe for motorists.
The number of deer-car accidents reported in Missouri has remained stable over the past 10 years, even though the number of cars and development of suburban areas have increased.
Nevertheless, drivers need to be watchful for deer along roads and highways, particularly early and late in the day, and particularly in autumn.
Shorter days and cooler weather mark the start of deer's mating season or "rut." Throughout the fall, deer become increasingly active, with mating activity peaking in November and then tapering off in December and January.
Like many mammals, deer are most active early and late in the day. Shorter days put commuters on the road during these peaks of deer activity, increasing the potential for collisions.
Deer-car collisions used to be a rural phenomenon. Today, however, deer are common in suburbs and cities. Nearly half of all reported deer-vehicle accidents occur in counties around major population centers.
A study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management found that deer-car accidents were more likely to occur where roadside visibility was good than in areas where visibility was limited. The finding suggests that drivers incorrectly assumed they could safely increase their speed along straight, level highways with high visibility.
Several other deer vehicle collision studies have found that caution also is needed when driving near bridges. Streams serve as funnels that channel deer across roads near bridges.
To minimize the risk of deer-car accidents, take the following precautions:
* Stay off the road at dawn and dusk if you can.
* Wear a seat belt.
* Use high-beam headlights to help see deer early.
* Scan the road well to the sides of the pavement.
* Slow down if you see deer standing beside the road. They can dash back across the road in an instant, or others may cross the road to reach them.
* Sound your horn to warn the deer of your approach.
* Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path. Be aware of surrounding traffic to avoid collisions with other vehicles.
* Do not swerve to avoid hitting a deer. This can confuse the deer about where to run or cause you to lose control.
* If you hit a deer, get your vehicle off the road. Then call the police.
* Don't approach an injured animal. It could hurt you.
* Carry a cell phone to call for help if necessary.
* Report any injury or damage to your insurance agent or company.
To keep a road-killed deer for its meat you must contact the Conservation Department. The law requires written authorization from a conservation agent to possess a deer before you can take it home.