Car vs. deer peaks in late fall

By Dave Gomez

Insurance companies and drivers may find themselves coughing up a lot of “doe” during the holiday season.

Starting in late October through the end of the year, driving through rural roads can be a risky period for deer-related accidents, said DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott.

Scott said deer are particularly active during that period due in part to the mating season and because food from local fields is disappearing during harvest time.

“Those two things combined make it difficult,” Scott said.

Last year the county had about 180 accidents involving deer, Scott said.

Serious injuries due to deer-related accidents rarely – if ever – occur in DeKalb County but are still a major concern given the size of the animals and the speed of the vehicle, Scott said.

Deer-crossing signs warn drivers of deer, but can be limited in their effectiveness.

“Obviously [the sign] doesn’t matter to the deer,” Scott said.

“Folks need to remind themselves that that’s a problem,” Scott said. “They’re out there; it’s a huge deer population.”

There are over 1.5-million deer-related vehicle crashes in the United States each year, killing 150 people, injuring 10,000 more and costing Americans an estimated $1.1 billion in vehicle damage, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

A study from 1999 to 2004 by the Erie Insurance Group found that 12 of every 1,000 insured vehicles filed deer claims. Nearly 40 percent, or $60 million, of the company’s losses in 2003 were due to the claims, with each averaging about $2,040.

October through December is also hunting season, which some criticize as an aggravating factor in deer-related accidents.

Hunters utilizing doe scents and firing weapons in the county are stirring up deer in an already sexually charged atmosphere, said Bill Dollinger, Washington D.C. director for Friends of Animals, a nonprofit animal advocacy group.

“It’s putting animals on the run,” he said.

Most accidents occur during nighttime and in the early morning, Dollinger said, and drivers should be especially careful to wear seatbelts and slow down during hunting season when animals are more active.

Deer are social animals, Dollinger said, and where one deer is spotted, more are likely to be found.

Aside from signs, highway reflectors show promise in preventing accidents, he said.

The roadside reflectors fill a road with lights when struck by headlights and are intended to deter deer from crossing.