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Drivers Be on the Lookout For Deer As Days Grow Shorter

Several weeks ago we turned back the clocks to “fall behind” for Daylights Savings’ end. However, the progression of the autumn season means that it is getting darker earlier and earlier each day as we quickly approach winter. Fewer daylight hours mean less time on the road with light and more time in the dark so drivers need to use extra caution when driving in darker conditions.

In addition to darker conditions, Illinois drivers must also be on the look-out for deer who are more active from October to December due to dropping temperatures, increased hunting and mating season. Deer are easily scared and often active during darker times of the day, so drivers must be vigilant to avoid collisions with these animals. Deer commonly dart into roads in front of cars and even to stop in the middle of the road when scared, hence the colloquial phrase “a deer in the headlights.” Because of this, it is not uncommon for deer-related motor vehicle accidents to occur in Illinois.

According to an article by the Benton Evening News, about four in every five crashes occurs on rural roadways, and almost 80% occur at twilight or nighttime. Furthermore, about 40-50% of deer related accidents occur during the months of October, November, and December. Both the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources have announced that crashes involving deer are thankfully on the decline in Illinois. However, even though these numbers are lower, deer-related crashes are still a frequent problem for Illinois drivers. The data has shown that motor vehicle crashes from deer have dropped from 15,495 in 2012 to 15,334 in 2013, resulting in an overall 1% decrease.

Both IDOT and IDNR have suggestions for drivers to be safe and prevent deer-related accidents, according to the same article. To avoid a collision with deer, drivers should be especially cautious at dusk and dawn because this is when deer are most active. Also, remember where you have seen deer in the past so that they do not come as a surprise to you and so that you can be prepared and on the lookout when driving in these areas. When you are in such areas, reduce your speed, and be ready to come to a quick stop. Commonly, these areas include wooded areas, farm fields, or when nearby water. It is also important to remember that deer will cross the road and then double back, so make sure deer have moved away before you proceed. Deer also follow each other, so if you see one deer, this can signify that others are nearby. Be a smart driver when near deer. Instead of swerving into traffic or off the road if you see a der, slowly come to a stop and wait for the deer to move. In fact, flashing your headlights or honking your car horn can get a deer to get off the roadway.

Our attorneys want everyone to be safe on the roads and do all that they can to avoid accidents. Even though data has showed the deer related crashes are declining, this is no time to stop being cautious. Statewide we need to continue the progress we have made by continuing to exercise caution and vigilance when driving on highways and other open roads where deer are often present. Hopefully we will continue to see the numbers of these crashes decline in 2014 and as we move into 2015.