Be on alert for deer, drivers told
Breeding season puts animals on collision course with vehicles
Lansing Police Officer Billy Blackwell II knows firsthand the damage a deer can do when it runs into a car.
Blackwell, a four-year veteran with the department, was on patrol in fall 2001, about a week after graduating from the state police academy, when a deer ran into the patrol car he was driving on Ida Street. Damage to the car was about $1,500.
"I saw it when I hit it," Blackwell said of the deer that came out from between a house and the football field at Lansing Middle School. "It didn't even hurt him. He just looked at me and walked off."
"I was brand-new - right out of the academy. I was scared as heck," Blackwell recalled.
Blackwell's experience isn't unique, especially during fall when accidents involving deer skyrocket locally and across the state.
Last year, 16 percent of all accidents - causing more than $1,000 in damage - reported in Leavenworth County involved a deer. Leavenworth County, in fact, recorded the sixth-highest number of traffic accidents involving deer in the state in 2004, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol. In neighboring Jefferson County, 172 deer-vehicle accidents - more than 35 percent of all traffic accidents in the county - were reported in 2004.
Statewide, 9,950 accidents involving deer were logged, including 299 that resulted in injury to either the driver or a passenger and four that resulted in fatalities.
In Lansing, police have responded to 10 accidents involving a deer out of the 133 accidents they've worked this year in the city.
The high number of deer-vehicle crashes in from October through December has prompted the Highway Patrol to advise motorists to be cautious of deer activity near roads.
The Highway Patrol attributes the increase at this time of the year to the deer-breeding or "rut" season.
Blackwell agreed deer seem to be more out and about during the fall.
"They do get worse this time of year," he said.
In Lansing proper, he said, there are several spots he regularly sees deer:
¢ Along either side of West Mary Street
¢ Near De Soto Road and Ida Street in fields around St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church
¢ In the area where Lansing Correctional Facility property hits Main Street.
"Usually when I see them," Blackwell said, "they're in a group."
After Blackwell's run-in with a deer, the Police Department outfitted all of its patrol cars with deer whistles, a device on the front of the car that warns deer away.
"I think they work," he said.
The Kansas Highway Patrol offers the following tips to avoid and mitigate vehicle-deer crashes:
¢ Actively look for deer. Be especially alert at dawn and dusk, which are the peak movement times for deer, and when visibility is low.
¢ Slow down near woods, parks, golf courses, streams and deer-crossing signs, which are posted where deer-vehicle collisions have repeatedly occurred.
¢ Deer usually travel in groups. When one deer crosses the road, there may be others about to cross. Be prepared to stop for others darting into the road.
¢ Slow down when approaching deer standing near roadsides. They have a tendency to bolt, sometimes onto the roadway. Use emergency flashers to warn oncoming drivers after you see deer near a roadway.
¢ Always wear a seat belt. Statistics show that most people injured or killed in deer-related collisions were not wearing seat belts.
Additionally, the patrol said, the most serious crashes occur when drivers lose control of their vehicles trying to avoid an animal. Do not take unsafe evasive actions. It is usually safer to strike the deer than another object such as a tree or another vehicle.
If you hit a deer, pull over onto the shoulder, turn on your emergency flashers, and watch for traffic before exiting your vehicle. Do not try to remove a deer from the roadway unless you are sure it is dead; an injured deer could hurt you. If you have a cellular phone, dial *47 (*HP) for the nearest Highway Patrol dispatcher or *KTA (582) for assistance on the Kansas Turnpike.
Anyone involved in a vehicle-deer crash that results in personal injury or property damage that totals $1,000.00 or more is required to immediately report the crash to the nearest law enforcement agency. Failure to report any traffic crash is a misdemeanor and may result in suspension of driving privileges.