There is traditionally an increase in the number of motor vehicle collisions with deer during the fall and early winter seasons in Kentucky, and already this season officials say that’s the case. Now they are urging residents to take caution when driving this time of year to avoid these types of collisions, which sometimes can result in serious injury or worse to the people involved.
It has been traditionally thought that the hunting season has an effect on the number of collisions since deer are migrating away from hunters. However, according to H.B. Elkins with the Department of Highways in Jackson, that may not be the case.
“The real issue is mating season, that is what put deer on the move more than anything else,” said Elkins, adding that this is similar to other animals, such as skunks. “You will notice in January and February a lot more dead skunks, that is skunk mating season.”
Mating season comes at a time of year when the deer are beginning to lose some of their main food sources, so they are being forced to move around much more to find food and mates.
“People will go and take the corn out of the fields and leaves come off the trees and things like that,” said Elkins. “They lose their habitat, and they lose some of their food sources.”
Last year the Kentucky State Police received nearly 4,000 reports of vehicle collisions with deer. Four of those accidents resulted in a fatality to an occupant in the vehicles.
“The number of deer in the area does seem to be on the increase,” said Elkins, noting that this could help contribute to a larger number of wrecks this year as compared to others.
According to information from State Farm Insurance, Kentucky is considered a moderate risk state for deer-car collisions. Central and Eastern Kentucky are at a higher risk. Virginia is considered high risk, and West Virginia is the state with the highest probability for the most collisions.
Elkins noted that the highway department places signs warning of potential collisions in areas where incidents are more likely. Two signs are posted along Ky. 80 in Perry County between Hazard and the Knott County line.
“Our policy is that if there is an area that we note a large number of collisions we will put a deer crossing sign up,” said Elkins.
Elkins did advise that if someone has noticed an area with frequent deer traffic they may request a sign be put up. Also, if anyone has noticed any deer or animal carcasses to call and report them so they can be disposed of.
This year, along with deer, several collisions with elk have been reported, which is not as common an occurrence.
“There aren’t that many elk-car collisions, not like there are deer-car collisions,” said Elkins, who offered a few words of advice to drivers to help avoid collisions.
“Basically slow down and be alert,” he said. “Deer are most active at dawn and then twilight and dusk.”
Both Elkins and the KSP advised that if you do see a deer it is better to hit your brakes than to swerve. By swerving you may confuse the deer and they may run in the wrong direction or you could yourself run off the road.
To report a carcass, request a sign, or find out more information call the Department of Highways District 10 at (606) 666-8841.