DOT urges heightened motorist awareness as deer rut begins
Over the next few months, motorists across Wisconsin will need to be especially alert for the potential of deer to dart suddenly across roadways. Traffic safety officials with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) note that deer/vehicle crashes typically peak during October and November as bucks pursue potential mates.
“The best way for motorists to protect themselves and avoid hitting a deer is to buckle up, slow down and carefully scan the road ahead,” said David Pabst, Director of the WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety. “Deer can be spotted any time of day, but are most active at dusk and dawn. And if you see one deer cross your path, expect more to follow.”
Last year, Wisconsin law enforcement agencies reported 20,413 crashes between deer and motor vehicles. Dane County had the most with 1,006, followed by Waukesha County with 871 and Washington County with 766. In Green Lake, Kewaunee, Shawano, Vernon and Waupaca counties, more than half of all reported crashes in 2016 involved deer.
“If you can’t avoid a deer in your path, the safest option is to hit the brakes and the deer,” Pabst said. “If you swerve suddenly, you can lose control and then you risk a more serious collision with another vehicle or a stationary object such as a tree or utility pole.”
The one exception to the “don’t swerve” recommendation applies to motorcyclists. Motorcycle drivers should slow down, brake firmly and swerve if necessary to avoid hitting the deer. Motorcyclists should try to stay within their driving lane to avoid hitting other vehicles or objects. Of the 11 deaths in deer/vehicle crashes in Wisconsin last year, all were motorcyclists.
Tips to avoid deer crashes
Slow down and eliminate distractions.
Always wear your safety belt – there are fewer and less severe injuries in crashes when all vehicle occupants wear safety belts.
Be especially vigilant in early morning and evening hours when deer are most active.
If you see a deer along the road, slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten the animal away.
When one deer appears, look for more. Deer seldom run alone.
If you find a deer looming in your headlights, don’t expect it to move away.
Headlights can confuse a deer and cause the animal to freeze.
Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path.
Do not swerve.
Swerving can confuse the deer as to where to run, and can also cause you to lose control of your vehicle and result in a much more serious crash.
The one exception is if you are operating a motorcycle, in which case you should slow down, brake firmly and then swerve if necessary to avoid hitting the deer. Try to stay within your lane if at all possible to avoid hitting other objects.
If you do hit a deer:
Get your vehicle safely off the road if possible and call law enforcement.
It’s generally safest to stay buckled-up inside your vehicle. Walking along the highway is very dangerous as you could be struck by another vehicle.
Don’t attempt to move an injured deer.