ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
The weather has turned colder, which means people will have to keep an eye out for deer on the roads in the coming months.
Statistics show about 1.5 million deer vs. vehicle accidents happen every year, and deer vs. vehicle accidents cause about 175 to 200 fatalities and 10,000 injuries annually. With that in mind, Seward County Undersheriff Ryan Roehr said the most important thing is to pay attention.
“As far as deer goes, pay attention to what time of day you're thinking of being out and about because deer are typically most active either at sunrise or close to sunset, those are the most common times of the day when people see them,” Roehr said. “If you're out when the sun's about to set, be more aware of your surroundings as far as deer go, and the same goes for if you're out earlier in the morning when the sun's coming up. Pay attention to your surroundings, particularly if there are ditches. This time of the year is deer rutting season, so more deer are out and about, and it's typically from November to February/March when there are the most accidents. We're close to the beginning of the season right now, so people should be careful from now until the spring. In Seward County, I would say the bridge at the Cimarron River on U.S. Hwy. 54 is a prime area for deer-related accidents, and so is Bluebell Road, those two are our problem areas.”
So far for this year, Roehr said, things have been pretty quiet.
“This year has actually been really quiet, I can't think of a year when we've had so few deer-related accident calls so far. In years past, there were times when we were dealing with two or three of those calls almost every week, so it's really surprising to me for this year to not have responded to as many deer calls,” Roehr said. “I can't say that's because this area is so dry at the moment, or what exactly, but when we collect our statistics, the numbers for this year will be pretty low compared to the past few years. We feel good about it, and I hope people will continue to be careful on their travels and avoid areas that could pose more of a hazard in regard to deer-related accidents. Again, I can't fully say why we haven't gotten as many calls this year, but we hope the numbers will remain low.”
However, if an accident does occur, Roehr said there are a few things to be done.
“If you do see a deer, the first thing you should do is brake, not jerk the wheel, because that's where the bad accidents come from – people see the deer and then jerk the wheel to swerve and avoid it, but that can cause you to end up in the ditch or roll over, which could turn into a host of problems in itself,” Roehr said. “If you just hit the deer, you're less likely to end up with a severe injury – your car might not make it, but YOU'LL have a better chance of making it that way. If you jerk the wheel and swerve, that could cause you to lose control and cause an even worse situation that could also involve other motorists. I know the first reaction is to avoid the deer, but the best thing to do is hit the brakes as soon as possible without swerving, that's the safest option. If you're uninjured and able to move the vehicle off the road, that would be a good thing to do. Then, check for injuries and make sure you're fully okay, and then dial 911 for help, and then an officer will come out and help work the situation.”
Roehr added for those preparing for extra travel in the coming weeks, it is a good idea to do the bulk of said traveling during the daytime hours.
“If you can get the bulk of your driving done during the day when the sun's out and you can see everything better, that's ideal. If you've got a long distance to travel, you'll probably be more tired in the evening, which means you might not be as alert, and that could cause you to miss something on the road,” Roehr said. “It's better to get the bulk of your driving done when it's full daylight and then you can rest in the evening.”
According to pawsomeadvice.com, 67 percent of all animal collisions are with deer.
“One positive that came out of COVID-19 is the decreased number of deer accidents in 2020 by about 20 percent,” pawsomeadvice.com noted. “Between 2020 and 2021, there were 2.1 million insurance claims for animals collisions.”
Overall, Roehr said, he hopes people will remain safe on the road for the coming months.
“I was recently looking at statistics throughout the state regarding deer-related accidents, and back in 2020, we were at 13 deer-related accidents out of 444 total crashes, and I noticed the numbers got higher the more east you go,” Roehr said. “I'm hoping we can keep numbers low this year and I hope everyone can keep safe while driving.”