Roaming deer can cost drivers dearly

Police advise drivers to slow down when spotting a deer near the road. Deer usually travel together, so if you see one deer, others are likely close by. (Delaware State News file)

Police advise drivers to slow down when spotting a deer near the road. Deer usually travel together, so if you see one deer, others are likely close by. (Delaware State News file)

DOVER — Dawn and dusk: Call them the love hours drivers hate.

That’s when deer are especially active and most likely to be hit by drivers. In Sussex County alone almost 47 of 189 animal or deer-related crashes in the last month happened either at 6 a.m. or 5 p.m., according to Sgt. Richard Bratz, Delaware State Police spokesman.

Deer are especially active right now since it’s mating season with bucks chasing doe through fields, marshes and woods — and across roadways.

State police have investigated 741 crashes in Sussex County in the last 30 days with 189 or 26 percent being animal or deer-related, according to a release issued Wednesday.

• 24 of the 189 animal or deer-related crashes occurred in the 6 a.m. hour (dawn)

• 23 crashes occurred in the 5 p.m. hour (dusk)

• 105 of the animal or deer-related crashes occurred between 5 and 11 p.m.

Many of the 6 a.m. hour crashes occurred along the main corridors of Del. 1, U.S. 13 and U.S. 113 while most of the 5 p.m. crashes were on secondary roads, according to Sgt. Bratz.

The average white-tailed deer in Delaware weighs about 130 pounds, with larger bucks tipping the scales at 180 pounds or more. Drivers are urged to stay alert and be prepared for a deer to dart into the roadway from dusk to dawn.

Crashing into a deer not only can kill or cripple the deer, it also can result in injury or death to a driver and passengers. Striking a deer also can cause costly damage to the vehicle.

Sgt. Bratz offers the following tips:

• Attentive driving with slower speeds are the best ways to avoid deer collisions.

• Turn your headlights on at dawn and dusk and keep your eyes on the road, scanning the sides of the road as well as what’s ahead of you. When there is no oncoming traffic, switch to high beams to better reflect the eyes of deer on or near the roadway.

• To reduce your risk of injury in a collision, always wear your seatbelt.

• Be especially aware of any distractions that might take your eyes off the road.

• Watch for “Deer Crossing” signs that mark commonly traveled areas, and be aware deer typically cross between areas of cover, such as woods or where roads divide agricultural fields from woods.

• If you see a deer crossing the road ahead, slow down immediately and proceed with caution until you are past the crossing point. Deer usually travel in groups, so if you see one deer, there likely are 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 hitting another obstacle such as a tree or a pole is likely to be much more serious than hitting a deer.

• If you hit a deer, stop at the scene, get your car off the road if possible and call police. Do not touch the animal or get too close.

“A frightened and wounded deer can cause serious injury to a well-meaning person trying to ‘help,’” said Sgt. Bratz. “You could be bitten, kicked or even gored by a buck’s antlers. Keep a safe distance and wait for troopers to arrive.”

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