Stay safe on the roads this fall

The arrival of fall also means the arrival for the increased risk of avoiding deer-related car accidents, especially during dawn and dusk.

Kane County drivers were involved in 524 crashes involving deer in 2008, and accounted for one of the two deaths from those accidents in the state. Kane also ranked third among counties in the state for injuries due to deer-related accidents with 24, behind Cook and Peoria counties.

Statewide, the number of auto-deer accidents decreased in 2008, hopefully starting a positive trend. Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig announced Wednesday that the number of deer-vehicle accidents decreased by 814 from 2007 to 2008.

While the numbers are improving, the danger still exists, and state officials provide drivers with ways to continue the trend of reducing deer-vehicle accidents.

“Crashes involving deer are very difficult to avoid, which is why we strongly urge motorists to be alert and buckle up and motorcyclists to wear a helmet to help prevent injury or death,” Hannig said.

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) cited a nationwide study of vehicle-animal crashes that showed that 60 percent of people in vehicles killed were not weariing seat belts, and 65 percent of motorcyclists killed were not wearing helmets.

So, those two items are clearly the most obvious, and most effective, ways to remain safe while driving the roadways. However, to help avoid an accident in the first place, drivers need to remain alert, especially during the hours when deer are most active.

“Deer are most active during dawn and dusk and that means motorists need to be on alert, especially when driving to and from work,” Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller said. “Keep a mental log of places you drive where deer are seen regularly and slow down in those areas. And if you see one deer cross the road, always assume there are more to follow.”

Anyone familiar with living in our area in the fall will tell you how unpredictable and quick deer can be, especially when they are frightened by traffic. IDOT offered these tips to stay safe on the road this fall:
• Be particularly cautious at dusk and dawn, when deer are most active.
• Reduce speed and be prepared to stop on roads where deer may be present.
• Deer may cross the roadway and double back across the road surface. Make sure deer have moved away, before proceeding.
• Be mindful that several others may follow a single deer near or across a road.
• Keep track of locations where deer have been seen in the past, to avoid being surprised by deer crossing roads.
• Avoid swerving into oncoming traffic or off the road if deer are on the roadway. Instead, slow to a stop and wait for the deer to move along.
• Drivers encountering deer on the roadway should try flashing their headlights from bright to dim or honking their horn to encourage the deer to move on.
• Drivers can alert other motorists to the presence of deer by tapping their brakes.

It can become easy to forget about some of the dangers that change as the seasons progress. We hope that this brief reminder helps keep you more alert—especially during dawn and dusk—and therefore, more safe.