State agencies caution of increased car-deer collisionsFrom Staff Reports
More than 300 people were injured when vehicles collided with deer in 2011, according to data provided by the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
A total of 1,000 people across the country died in similar accidents between 2006 and 2010, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
With an estimated 50,000 deer-car collisions annually in Georgia, leaders of the state’s wildlife, highway safety and insurance agencies are advising motorists to be cautious of increased deer sightings this fall.
Fall hunting season is often associated with running deer onto the roads, and firearms deer season opens today — running Oct. 20 through Jan. 1 in Georgia’s Northern Zone, and through Jan. 15 in the state’s Southern Zone.
“Hunting is oftentimes mistakenly blamed for increased deer-car collisions, but there are natural and human causes for their activity.” says Don McGowan, senior biologist with the DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division. “Changes in seasons and other factors lead to increased wildlife sightings.”
McGowan points out three key factors:
• Mating Season — Deer mating season occurs between October and early December. Male deer go into rut and begin actively searching for mates. This greatly contributes to the increased movement of deer, bringing them across roadways.
• Increased human population and rural development — As the human population continues to grow and expand into traditionally rural areas, deer lose their natural food source and consequently move into new areas in search of food and water.
• Time Changes — As we near the “fall back” from Daylight Savings Time — which this year is Nov. 4 — our days become shorter and nights become longer. Rush hour for most commuters tends to fall during the same hours in which white-tailed deer are most active — dawn and dusk.
The state agencies offer motorists some tips and information to help avoid potential collisions:
• Unpredictable: Always remember deer are wild, and therefore, can be unpredictable. A deer calmly standing on the side of a road may bolt into or across the road rather than away from it when startled by a vehicle.
• One Deer Usually Means More: Take caution and slow down when a deer crosses. Deer generally travel in groups, so if one crosses, be prepared that others may follow.
• Time of Day: As deer are most active at dawn and dusk, they typically are seen roadside during the early morning and late evening — the same times most people are commuting to and from work.
• Time of Year: While deer-car collisions can occur any time of year, the fall breeding season is a peak time for such accidents. Road shoulders generally provide green food both during extremely dry times of the year and following a long, hard winter.