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Watch out for deer crossing county roads

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Indiana ranks among the top-10 states in the country reporting insurance claims for deer collisions. More than 15 deer/vehicle accidents have been reported to 911 dispatchers at the Clay County Justice Center in the past month at various locations around the county. Times Staff photo.
Local 911 operators at the Clay County Justice Center estimate they have dispatched emergency response personnel to the scene of more than 15 deer/vehicle accidents in the past month at various locations around the county.

"Deer are on the move out there," Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton said. "People need to be alert at all times of the day while driving."

Fall harvest, deer migration and winter mating seasons create a deadly combination for both motorists and deer trying to live together in an ever-shrinking world during the winter months.

"Man has always been the number one predator for white-tailed deer," Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Spokesman Russ Grunden said in a recent press release. "These days, the biggest predators seem to be Fords and Chevys."

According to information provided by the Indiana State Police, there were 8,777 vehicle/deer crashes reported in Indiana from Jan. 1-Oct 1, 2007. Of these, 225 resulted in personal injury reports involving a driver or a passenger and two of the crashes resulted in fatalities of individuals in the vehicles.

Although most accidents occur along county roadways, deer can be a problem in cities as well.

"Once in a while, we will have a report of a car/deer accident in the outlying areas of the city, but deer are really not much of a problem in the city," Brazil City Police Chief Terry Harrison said. "That doesn't mean that people who live in the city shouldn't be alert while they are driving, especially in the rural outskirts of the town. We have had a few incidents in the past where a deer got in the city, ran through town and jumped through a window of a local business."

Harrison said that motorists driving near Forest Park should pay extra attention because residents and officers have reported seeing "seven or eight deer at a time crossing State Road 59."

SIDEBAR: Safe driving tips during deer season

With Indiana ranking among the top-10 states in the country reporting insurance claims for deer collisions, the Highway Safety Research Center has offered the following tips for potentially lowering the risk of a crash with a deer.

* Drivers should slow down in field and wooded areas with a large deer population, or where there are deer warning signs. A driver should maintain control and speed of their vehicle in case of an unexpected "deer pedestrian" in the roadway. It is important that driver's not lose control of their vehicle or veer into the path of an on-coming vehicle to avoid contact with an animal, which usually results in a more serious crash and injuries.

* Keep a lookout for eyes reflecting in the glow of headlights by scanning the roadsides near field edges, heavily wooded areas, or in areas posted as deer crossing areas. The sooner a driver can see a deer on or approaching a road, the better the chance of avoiding a crash.

* Deer travel in fairly large herds, so if one deer crosses the road in front of a vehicle, a driver shouldn't assume that all is clear.

* Do not place confidence in "deer whistles" or other "ultra-sonic" devices that claim to prevent deer collisions. Officials agree that nothing works better than remaining vigilant while driving.

* Motorists should always wear seat belts because it is the best protection from injuries in the event of a crash.

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