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News Release

October 31, 2003

State agencies warn drivers how to avoid deer-vehicle collisions

     

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The state departments of Transportation, Public Safety and Natural Resources urge drivers to take precautions to avoid deer-vehicle collisions, especially during the fall when most crashes occur.

"Safety ranks as one of Mn/DOT's top priorities," said Mn/DOT Deputy Commissioner Doug Differt. "With 12,000 miles of state highways and an expanding deer herd, deer-vehicle collisions are a key safety issue. The risk increases during the fall mating and migration season when deer are most active," he added.

Driver reaction often dictates the severity of deer-vehicle crashes.

"Although deer-vehicle collisions can cause extensive vehicle damage, most serious injuries and fatalities are caused by drivers taking evasive actions," said Kathy Swanson, director of Driver and Vehicle Services with the Department of Public Safety. "Drivers need to avoid swerving into oncoming traffic or leaving the road which can cause them to hit a tree or other object."

The issue of vehicle-deer crashes becomes more critical as traffic increases throughout the state and as the state's deer herd, estimated by the DNR at 1.4 million, continues to grow.
Swanson advises that motorists facing an unavoidable crash with a deer not veer out of their traffic lane or lose control of their vehicles.

"It's safer to hit a deer than to risk hitting another vehicle or a fixed object such as a tree," she said. "Apply your brakes firmly, hold onto the steering wheel and bring your vehicle to a controlled stop."

If a driver hits a deer, Swanson advises removing it from the roadway only if certain that the animal is dead. "An injured deer's sharp hooves can cause serious injury," she said. "Report the crash immediately to a law enforcement agency and notify your insurance company."
In 2002, deer-vehicles crashes resulted in five fatalities; 417 crashes resulted in injuries to travelers.

Last year there were 5,557 deer-related crashes compared to 5,250 crashes in 2001. Four people died in deer-vehicle crashes in 2001; 424 of the crashes caused injuries.

There are approximately 19,000 deer-vehicle collisions every year in Minnesota according to the Deer-Vehicle Crash Information Clearinghouse. An average of 450 injuries and two deaths occur each year as a result of crashes or attempts to avoid collisions. Most deer-vehicle crashes occur in November; the majority take place in Hennepin, Washington, Anoka and Dakota counties.

State officials advise, however, that the reported number of deer-vehicle crashes is conservative because they are recorded only when there is an injury or death or damage exceeding $1,000.
Drivers can improve their safety by following these suggestions:

  • Slow down and prepare to stop as soon as you see a deer. It is much safer to stop than to have to take evasive action.
  • When you see a deer, watch for additional ones. Deer are herd animals and frequently move in groups.
  • Deer are nocturnal and travel most at dawn and at dusk. Most deer-vehicle crashes occur between the hours of 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Deer eyes may reflect in your headlights. Watch for them. For maximum safety, assume that deer will cross your path.
  • If you hit a deer, call 9-1-1. Law enforcement officers will assist with injuries and write a report to provide to your insurance company.

It is illegal to take a deer without an authorization permit. If you hit a deer or find a deer carcass, you must obtain a permit to tag the deer before it can be legally transported. Any local law enforcement officer can issue such a permit.


   

Contact:

Jeanne Aamodt 651/297-3597
Pager: 612/650-1995

Kevin Smith, DPS, 651/296-8383

Steve Carroll, DNR, 651/ 296-6522

 

Office of
Communications

395 John Ireland Blvd.
Mail Stop 150
St. Paul, MN
55155-1899