It’s “Deer In The Headlights” Time

We are entering the time of year when deer are most likely to be crossing Delaware roadways, and with the clock change coming in less than two weeks, Delaware State Police and DNREC are alerting motorists to watch out for deer.

“Bucks are very single-minded in their pursuit of does during the rut, their mating season, which lasts from October to December and peaks from Nov. 10 to 20. If that pursuit takes a buck or doe across a roadway in front of your vehicle, that’s where they’re going to go, whether it’s Route 1 or a rural road,” DNREC Wildlife Program Manager Joe Rogerson said. “Drivers should pay particular attention on roads bordered by woods or agricultural fields, since deer typically cross between areas of cover, but not always.”

According to Delaware Office of Highway Safety findings, last year there were 218 deer-related crashes in October, 337 in November and 153 in December. However, deer along the roadways can be a year-round hazard. They are also most likely to be active in the early morning and at dusk.

“We know this is the time of year when deer are out along the roadways in higher numbers and we have shorter daylight hours,” Delaware OHS Director Kimberly Chesser said. “That means drivers need to be more cautious around dusk and dawn, slow down and use your high-beams when possible to see further ahead and illuminate deer along the road.”

“Deer crashes are more prevalent this time of year and drivers must maintain full attention while driving,” Delaware State Police Master Corporal Gary Fournier added. “Deer will dart across any of the roadways on a frequent basis, especially in the fall, but keep in mind they may also cross during the day or in areas where there is ample lighting at night. Be cautious and scan the sides of the roadways as you’re driving. This may not always prevent a deer-related crash, but it can certainly help minimize damage and/or injuries.”

DNREC and DSP provided additional safety tips:

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·         Always wear your seatbelt to reduce your risk of injury in a collision.

·         Reduce speed at night, on curves and in bad weather.

·         Switch to high beams when there is no oncoming traffic to better reflect the eyes of deer on or near the roadway and scan the sides of the road as well as what’s directly ahead.

·         Watch for “Deer Crossing” signs marking commonly-traveled areas by deer on the road ahead. Slow down immediately and proceed with caution until past the crossing point.

·         Deer usually travel in groups, so if you see one deer, there are likely to be others.

·         Slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten deer away. Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors to deter deer, as these devices have not been proven to reduce deer-vehicle collisions.

·         Do not swerve to miss a deer — brake and stay in your lane. Losing control of your vehicle, crossing into another lane, hitting an oncoming vehicle, or leaving the roadway and striking a tree or utility pole will likely be a much more serious outcome than hitting a deer.

·         If you hit a deer, and your vehicle is damaged, stop at the scene, get your car off the road if possible, turn on your vehicle hazard lights and if you are injured, call 911.

·         Do not touch the animal or get too close; an injured deer may bite or kick and are capable of causing serious injury.

Motorists are reminded that it is unlawful to take possession of a deer that has been struck by an automobile without first obtaining a vehicle-killed deer tag, which can be provided by any law enforcement agency in the state. For more information about deer in Delaware, visit de.gov/deer.

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