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Deer on the road? Avoid the urge to swerve

Deer crossing sign
The MilMar Zone

If you drive in Illinois, chances are you’ve struck a deer or come close.

Fall brings the arrival of deer mating season, a time when the animals are most active. State wildlife officials remind you to be especially alert at dawn and dusk, now through December.

But even being careful might not be enough. What do you do if a deer darts into the road?

“While your natural instinct is to steer quickly out of the way when you see a deer, remember to not veer suddenly because you could lose control of your vehicle and swerve into another lane or off the road,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “Always prepare for the unexpected. A deer might stop in the middle of the road or double back. They also frequently travel in groups so when you see one there likely are others nearby.”
Safe driving tips for deer-mating season:

• Be aware of your surroundings, especially in areas with deer crossing signs.

• Scan the sides of the road for eye shine – the reflection of headlights in their eyes.

• Slow down if you see a deer and anticipate others could be following.

• Prepare for the unexpected. Deer may stop in the middle of the road and not move for oncoming vehicles.

• If a collision is inevitable, don’t veer. Try to glance your vehicle off the deer and avoid swerving into the opposite lanes of traffic or off the road.

In 2022, there were 14,524 crashes involving deer in Illinois. Of those, 13,892 resulted in damage to property or vehicles, while 629 caused injuries. Four of the crashes resulted in fatalities.

Last year, more than 40% of crashes involving deer in Illinois occurred in October, November and December, with November being the highest-risk month. Rural areas were the site of more than 70% of crashes involving deer, with most occurring at twilight or nighttime.

Deer can often appear suddenly in some surprising environments, so be on alert, slow down and pay attention in areas where they are known to travel.

The top 10 Illinois counties for crashes involving deer in 2022:

1. Cook 542

2. Madison 396

3. McHenry 351

4. Lake 350

5. Will 344

6. Peoria 323

7. Fulton 313

8. Kane 286

9. Sangamon 282

10. Macoupin 271

“Deer are a part of the Illinois landscape, and drivers should be mindful of their presence,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Natalie Phelps Finnie. “Drive cautiously this time of year, especially at dawn and dusk, when deer are particularly active for the fall mating season.”

If you hit a deer, pull off to the shoulder, turn on your hazard lights and call 911. Do not exit the vehicle to check on an injured deer or pull it from the road.

For information on how to claim a deer involved in a crash, or to report possession of a deer killed in a crash, click here or visit the IDNR website.

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