MANSFIELD — Ohio drivers beware. Your risk of colliding with deer increases in October, according to officials at the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) and the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP).
The increased risk is partly due to the fact that October through December is peak deer mating season in the Buckeye state, so deer are on the move looking for potential mates.
According to OSHP, 17,688 deer-vehicle (D-V) crashes were reported statewide last year, a decrease of 1,687 over the deer crashes from 2019. Not all D-V crashes are reported so the crash numbers are probably much higher. Three deaths and 857 injuries were caused in Ohio D-V crashes in 2020. Of the injuries, 55 were listed as serious injuries to the vehicle occupants.
Richland County was second among Ohio’s 88 counties for D-V crashes. The four counties with the highest number of reported D-V crashes in 2020 were Stark (533), Richland (449), Hancock (441), and Williams (411). All of the crashes resulted in some damage to the vehicle.
"If there's a ‘Deer Crossing’ sign, pay attention," said Reed Richmond, Health Educator at Richland Public Health and an instructor in the AARP senior driver refresher classes. "Those signs are there because they are areas well known for high, and active, wildlife populations. Use extreme caution, especially during these fall months and especially at dawn (5-8 a.m.) and at dusk (6-9 p.m.).” In Richland County 12% of D-V crashes were between 6 to 7 p.m. and 10% between 6 to 7 a.m.
“If you see one deer beside the road, slow down,” Richmond says. “Deer typically travel in groups, so the appearance of one approaching or crossing a road or a highway often indicates others' presence nearby. Since the deer don’t know any better, don’t think of it as deer crossing the road; think of it as the road crossing the forest.”
According to OSHP D-V crash data, November is the peak month for such collisions, representing 23% of Ohio’s D-V crashes. Richland County had just 18 D-V crashes in September of 2020 but that number jumped to 61 in October, 102 in November, and 52 in December. Such crashes can happen on any day, but Monday crashes were slightly higher in Richland County.
Should a collision appear imminent, OSHP authorities urge drivers not to swerve. Colliding with a deer is generally less hazardous than veering into opposing traffic or losing control and running off the road.
How to avoid hitting a deer*
Know the time of day: Dusk and dawn are prime times for deer activity, especially the hours of
5-8 a.m. and 6-9 p.m., during the months of October-December.
Observe posted deer-crossing signs: Drive with extreme caution, at or below the posted speed limit, especially in areas where deer are prevalent.
Since the deer don’t know any better, don’t think of it as deer crossing the road; think of it as the road crossing the forest.
Don’t swerve: If a collision with a deer seems probable, hit it while maintaining full control of your vehicle. Brake firmly and stay in your lane. A sudden swerve increases the risk of hitting another car, running off the road, or overturning.
Note: If you hit a deer in your path, you will not be ticketed. However, if you have a crash after swerving to avoid a deer, you may be cited for failure to control.
Use your bright lights: After dark, use high beams when there’s no opposing traffic. High beams illuminate the eyes of deer on or near a roadway and provide greater motorist reaction time. But don’t rely solely on high beams to deter collisions.
Expect more than one: If you see a deer on or near a roadway, expect others to follow.
Wear your seat belt: As required by state law and drive at a safe, sensible speed for conditions.
Stay alert: Deer are unpredictable and can dart out into traffic on busy highways.
Don’t rely on deer avoidance devices: Deer whistles and special reflectors that are marketed to scare deer away are not proven to reduce collisions, and may lull you into a false sense of security.
Following a collision*
Move your vehicle to a safe place: Preferably off the road and turn on your hazard lights.
Contact law enforcement: For medical and traffic control assistance, if needed.
Document the incident: Use your phone and take pictures of everything including injured animals, vehicle damage, other property damage and injuries sustained. Obtain contact info on witnesses.
Don’t touch an injured animal: It may scare them and cause additional chances of injury.
Don’t assume your vehicle is drivable: Check for fluid leaks, tire damage, broken lights, heavy damage to the hood or front end, etc. If in doubt, call for a tow truck.
Report the D-V collision to a local law enforcement agency: Such as OSHP, within 24 hours.
If you want to pick up a deer you killed in a collision, you may take possession of the deer by law as long as you report the collision to a game protector or other law enforcement within 24 hours. The protector or officer will then investigate and issue a certificate entitling you to the carcass. It is illegal to take a deer carcass without reporting it. (see ODPS Digest of Ohio Motor Vehicle Laws, page 61; OSHP 1533.121)
Contact your company or insurance agent: If you plan to file a comprehensive claim.