Oh Deer! ‘Tis the Season for Deer and Autos to Collide

If you are like me, and bless your heart if you are, there is never a day that goes by when I drive on Tennessee roads that I don’t see a deer crossing the roadway wherever I travel. They used to be only seen in rural areas of the state, but now they are even found on streets in our major cities.

Deer continue to be a major cost and time lost factor for drivers in the state due to automobile accidents. In a recent news release from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, it reports in Tennessee, between 2007 and 2011, 9.2 percent of deer-related crashes occurred on interstate highways. In 2011, there were 5,644 deer-related crashes, including 285 that involved injuries and two that were fatal. That was up by 4.2 percent from 5,418 the previous year. They also say that since 2007, deer-related crashes in Tennessee have increased 5.9 percent.

Tennessee Farm Bureau Insurance, one of the state’s leading auto insurers, saw an average of 6,493 deer-related crashes per year over a five year period from 2005 to 2010, with November being the month with the most crashes, averaging 1,202, and December coming in second with 856, followed by October with 696.

The fall season is the time of the year when deer are more on the move. Due to their mating season occurring this time of the year, as well as it also being hunting season, causing deer to be flushed out of their normal surroundings, they are crossing the roads in all areas in large numbers. It is very important to be aware of the increase of deer activity at this time of year and keep a close eye out for deer on the side of the road. Be sure to remember also that if you see one, more than likely there will be others to follow.

In the release from the highway patrol they give some good suggestions from the Department of Safety and Homeland Security and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to help prevent deer-related crashes during this peak mating and hunting season time of the year. Their suggestions are:

  • Whenever you see deer cross the road, expect more to follow. Many times, the second or third deer crossing becomes the one that motorists hit.
  • Be attentive; drive defensively, constantly scanning the roadside, especially at daybreak and dusk.
  • Do not swerve to avoid contact with deer. This could cause the vehicle to flip or veer into oncoming traffic, causing a more serious crash. Swerving also can confuse the deer as to where to run.
  • When you spot a deer, slow down immediately. Proceed slowly until you pass that point.
  • If you do collide with a deer, never approach the injured animal. They are powerful and can cause bodily harm to a human. Report any deer collision, even if the damage is minor.

If you have ever been involved in a collision with a deer, you know the out come is not very good for either one of you. Many times people do not know just what to do when this does occur and the THP suggests that if you do have a deer crash, move the vehicle as far off the road as possible, and dial *THP (*847) from an available cell phone for assistance. The call will be connected to the nearest THP Communications Center and a state trooper will be dispatched to the location. Also remember, that injured animals can be dangerous, so avoid contact with the deer until professional help arrives.

Tennessee law allows deer killed in a collision to be taken and used as food, as long as you contact the nearest TWRA regional office to report the accident within 48 hours. For TWRA regional offices, visit the TWRA website at www.tnwildlife.org

The deer population continues to grow with damage occurring not only to automobiles, but to farm crops, fences, gardens and lawns as well. The concern over the state’s herd growth continues to be an ongoing study to see what the future may hold for controlling the deer population in our state. The most productive way to control deer numbers is by hunting managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. They estimate the state’s herd at over 900,000 deer with that population continuing to increase at the rate of 1-2 percent per year for the near future. The number of hunters averages around 217,400, which is a decline from the 1990s when more hunters were involved in the sport. It is a difficult task for the agency to keep the numbers balanced with hunter decline and deer increase, but they do so with hunting limits and regulated season dates.

The important thing is to not use your brand new Chevrolet to bag your limit this year. Slow down and watch for deer on the side of the road as they move about this time of the year.

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 – Pettus L. Read is editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at pread@tfbf.com