Watch for deer on roadways

A mule deer crosses a road on the Air Force Academy March 8, 2007. Vehicle collisions with wildlife are the second-leading cause of accidents on the Academy, which has a deer population of about 250 and an elk population of roughly 35. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

A mule deer crosses a road in front of a car. In Texas, a minimum of 1,257 injuries per year have occurred due to deer-vehicle collisions since 2003. (courtesy photo)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration there are about 1.5 million car accidents involving deer each year resulting in about 150 human fatalities, over 10,000 personal injuries and $1 billion in vehicle damage.

In Texas, a minimum of 1,257 injuries per year have occurred due to deer-vehicle collisions since 2003.

Most of these accidents occur between dusk and dawn. Drivers need to be especially careful where roads pass through wooded or rural areas. The most important action drivers can take to reduce the chances of an accident with a deer is to drive at or below the speed limit or slower. Reduce speeds at night and in bad weather.
These are some useful facts about deer and their habits.

· Deer usually travel in groups and generally maintain a home range of about one square mile. If you see a deer cross the road, slow down and use caution. Often additional deer are out of view and more are likely to follow.

· A deer standing calmly in a field may suddenly jump into the road. Anticipate the potential for this rapid change in posture.

· Elevate your deer awareness at locations with deer crossing signs. Deer crossing signs indicate areas where heavily used deer trails cross roadways. Slow down and watch for the eye-shine of deer near the roadway edges.

· Be especially aware during the morning and afternoon. Deer tend to be more active during the early morning hours and late afternoon hours year round. They are moving between evening feeding areas and daytime bedding sites.

· Be especially cautious during seasons of high deer activity including - October to January during the breeding season, and May and June when yearlings are seeking new territories. In spring, deer move and tend to gravitate near roadway shoulders for the first greening grass and remaining roadway salt.

· Slow down to avoid hitting a deer, but do not swerve. This can cause you do lose control and strike another vehicle or to leave the highway and strike a tree or other object. Injuries to drivers and passengers increase when the vehicle swerves.

Every case is different, but there are things to consider if a deer suddenly jumps in front of the car. The most important thing to remember is to maintain control of your car. Apply the brakes in a controlled manner. It is more likely that they will leap out of your path than that you will be able to brake and steer around them. Most serious injuries occur when a driver skids out of control and leaves the road or swerves into oncoming traffic. These circumstances arise quickly allowing very little time to react. Try to think ahead. When seeing a deer crossing sign think about what could be done if a deer suddenly jumps into the road. Mentally practice keeping a cool head and reacting in a controlled fashion and this can make it more likely to react appropriately.

Motorists and passengers involved in an accident should provide assistance to anyone injured. Do not attempt to remove a dead or injured deer from a busy roadway. Instead, contact local, county or state law enforcement officials.