Deer crashes plague drivers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 17, 2004

For hunters, Butler County’s large deer population makes it an outdoorsman’s paradise. For motorists, however, the movement of one of the areas biggest resources can create a very dangerous situation.

Each year motorists have unpleasant encounters with wandering deer. Some result in simple fender benders, while others are far more serious.

Over the last two years Alabama motorists have had their share of problems. In 2003 there were a total of 2,568 accidents resulting in one death and 269 injuries. In 2002 there were 2,895 accidents with six deaths and 325 injuries. One such death occurred when Alabama State Trooper Brian Nichols struck a horse.

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Alabama State Trooper Spokesman Tim Sartain said these numbers came from accidents involving animals from deer to horses. However, deer made up most of the numbers. Sartain said it was very important for motorists to pay attention on the road.

&uot;The key thing is to be alert,&uot; Sartain said. &uot;If you are in an area with a possibility of deer crossing the road slow down. Be aware of unusual movements. Deer’s eyes often reflect a strange green and often that will give you a heads up.&uot;

Sartain also said just because you are not in the country does not mean deer will not be in the area.

&uot;This time of year we are starting to see the deer move with the weather cooling off and that means everywhere,&uot; Sartain said. &uot;Don’t think just because you are in an urban area there are no deer there. Deer can coexist with people very easily and there are a lot of problems with deer crossing in urban areas.&uot;

Motorists with AAA service often wonder how their coverage would respond in a situation where they have struck a deer. Clay Ingram, public relations manager for AAA’s Alabama headquarters assured motorists they would be there for them.

&uot;We would treat is just like they had broken down,&uot; Ingram said. &uot;If somebody needed to be towed or if they ended up with a flat tire and needed a tire change we would go out and take care of them. Whatever they needed.&uot;

Ingram said regardless of the situation AAA would come to the rescue.

&uot;As far as AAA is concerned we would treat it just like it is a normal breakdown on the side of the road,&uot; Ingram said. &uot;We would offer our normal services for roadside emergencies.&uot;

There are measures that can be taken to prevent serious injuries or accidents altogether.

To protect the deer, your passengers, and yourself, AAA makes these suggestions:

n Buckle up. Your odds of walking away from a collision with a deer improve dramatically if you and all your passengers are wearing seat belts.

n Slow down. Driving at or below the speed limit improves your chances of stopping safely if a deer runs in front of you.

n Use your high beams and watch for the reflection of deer’s eyes and their silhouettes on the shoulders of roads.

n Take note of deer-crossing signs. They’re not placed arbitrarily.

n If you see one deer, slow down and keep your eyes focused for more. And remember the exact spot where you saw a deer cross the road. They are creatures of habit and often use the same paths again.

If it becomes clear that you won’t be able to avoid colliding with a deer:

n Don’t swerve. Few drivers die or are seriously injured in a collision with a deer — except when they try to dodge it, and veer into oncoming traffic, a tree or off the road.

n Brake until the last fraction of a second before impact, then let off your brakes. This will cause the front end of your car to rise, increasing the odds that the struck deer will pass underneath your car, instead of being launched into your windshield and seriously injuring you or your passengers.

n If you do strike a deer, do not touch it or try to move it yourself. Despite your kind intentions, an injured deer might panic and startle or injure you. Call police or other authorities for assistance.