A deer price to pay

Auto collisions: Increasing number of deer lead to more road accidents

driver caution urged.

November 20, 2001

DEER SEASON is at its peak, and the roads are less safe for man and beast.

The fall mating season drives these restless ruminants to move beyond their normal habitats - and further into human environs - to locate each other. As the highway body counts readily confirm, more of them are running across roads and creating serious traffic hazards.

Last year, some 4,000 deer-auto collisions were reported to police in this state, but many more went unrecorded except by repair shops.

Deer populations in Maryland continue to rise, despite liberalized hunting efforts and housing sprawl. Some 300,000 white-tail are spread across the state.

Maryland hunters took nearly 85,000 deer last season, almost 10 percent more than the previous year. The 15-day firearms season starts this week, as bow hunting season ends, and there are a number of special hunts aimed to curb the proliferating animals.

Motorists need to be alert to the peril this time of year, because the deer are everywhere.

Be especially watchful around dawn and dusk when deer are more active, and when driving through rural areas of woods and fields where the cervine pests are most common. Deer often tend to move in groups, so the first animal seen is often followed by others. A deer standing at the side of the road will likely cross it. Pay attention to deer crossing signs.

If you can't react in time, don't swerve to miss the deer, experts advise. Swerving can cause greater danger of an accident.

Roadside headlight reflectors, heat-sensing and radar systems to alert motorists or deer have been tried, with no consistent success. Car-mounted whistles don't seem to work, either.

The best defense is to watch out for them, because deer don't look before crossing the road.

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