A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

NKY leads the state in deer-vehicle collisions — so heads up, that time of year is coming

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

State Transportation Cabinet officials are warning drivers to be extra aware of deer on roadways this time of year.

“October, November, and December account for more than half of all reported deer-vehicle collisions,” said Deneatra Henderson, chief engineer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Madisonville office. “We’re taking time to alert drivers to use extra caution, particularly when driving during twilight hours when deer are more likely to be on the move and visibility is poorest.”

This is especially true of Northern Kentuckians as the region leads the state in vehicle-deer collisions.

The combination of fewer daylight hours and cooler evening temperatures cause deer to emerge earlier than normal this time of year. Kentucky is 15th in the nation for deer-vehicle collisions with drivers facing a 1 in 100 chance of hitting a deer.

Pretty but dangerous — Beware!

The increase in deer-vehicle collisions usually starts in early to mid-October when farmers ramp up fall grain harvesting. The harvest reduces both food availability and a reduction of concealed habitat for the deer. Increased activity during mating season causes deer to stray from their normal travel patterns, pushing them into residential neighborhoods and urban areas with higher traffic numbers.

In 2017, more than 3,200 deer-vehicle collisions were recorded by police agencies across Kentucky, 100 more than the previous year. However, the numbers are likely higher, since not all crashes are reported to law enforcement.

In addition to causing damage to vehicles, deer contribute to more than 100 injury crashes and about three highway fatalities in Kentucky each year. Annually, deer are responsible for roughly 200 traffic fatalities across the nation.

Boone County recorded 180 deer-vehicle collisions in 2017, Campbell County was second with 117, while Kenton County had 103, tying with Christian County for third place.

According to State Farm Insurance, the national average cost per deer collision claim for 2017 was $4,179, up from $3,995 reported in 2016.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet offers several driving tips to help improve safety:

–Always wear a safety belt.

–Keep headlights on bright unless other vehicles are approaching.

–Drive defensively, constantly scanning the roadside, especially at dawn and dusk when deer are more active.

–Slow down immediately when you spot a deer crossing the roadway ahead, as deer tend to travel in groups.

–Don’t swerve to avoid a deer — Swerving can result in a more serious crash with an oncoming vehicle or roadside object.

–In the event of a crash, keep both hands on the wheel and apply brakes steadily until stopped.

The Transportation Cabinet asks drivers to report all deer-vehicle collisions to police, so locations and crash numbers can be recorded and monitored. This will allow them to place signage and/or take counter-measures to reduce deer-vehicle crashes.

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