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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 16, 2018

It’s that time in Iowa: State warns drivers to be wary of deer

By Mitchell Schmidt, The Gazette | Nov 13, 2017

CEDAR RAPIDS — The worst months for deer-involved vehicle collisions have arrived, and state officials caution Iowa motorists to be alert so they can avoid spending big bucks on auto repairs, or worse.

Tom Kinney, vice president at Andrews Collision Center, 815 Third St. SE., said the auto repair business sees a noticeable uptick in vehicles after car-deer collisions in the year’s later months.

Vehicle damage from colliding with a deer can range anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $10,000 to $15,000, Kinney said.

He added that the most damage — and injury — is caused when the driver tries to avoid a deer.

“The best thing you can do is try to stop and just hit them. The worst wrecks are the ones that swerved to try to not hit them,” Kinney said.

Cathy Cutler, transportation planner with the Iowa Department of Transportation’s District 6 office in Cedar Rapids, said the Iowa DOT often reminds drivers to not “veer for deer,” especially during this time of the year when the animals are more mobile.

“You’re better off slowing down and taking firm control of your vehicle. A lot of those fatal crashes are people who serve and overturn,” Cutler said. “For the rest of this month and December, that’s when we’re going to see deer being more active. They tend to be more mobile and end up out on the roadways, and that’s where we have problems.”

As the days get shorter in late October, breeding season — commonly referred to as the rut — for white-tailed deer picks up, said Tyler Harms, wildlife biometrician with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The rut usually lasts through December, Harms noted.

“They’re moving about a lot more frequently than they are other times of the year,” Harms said. “That certainly adds to the unpredictability or uncertainty on where they might cross the road.”

That increases the chance of being struck by motorists, he added.

Between Nov. 1, 2016, and Oct. 21, 2017, there were 7,251 animal-related crashes on Iowa highways, according to Iowa DOT data.

Those crashes accounted for 351 driver and passenger injuries, including 37 serious injuries and one fatality.

For about the same time frame the year before, from Nov. 1, 2015 to Oct. 31, 2016, Iowa saw 7,252 crashes. Of those, 338 involved injuries, including 31 serious injuries and three fatalities.

The estimated property damage caused statewide by animal-related collisions within both spans of time averaged more than $30 million, according to DOT data.

Iowa ranks fourth in the nation in potential likelihood of a motorist hitting a large animal, such as a deer, elk or moose, according to State Farm Insurance’s 2017 deer claim study.

Iowa drivers had a one-in-69 chance of being involved in a deer-vehicle collision between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, according to the study.

Don’t Veer for Deer

The Iowa Department of Transportation offers these tips for motorists should a deer step into the path of their vehicle:

Brake firmly.

Steer to maintain control.

Stop safely within the lane or along the road’s shoulder

Use a safety belt to avoid injury

The Iowa DOT also provides tips to reduce the risk of deer collisions:

Slow down near deer crossing signs — which highlight areas where animals are more likely to cross — and pay greater attention.

Be extra careful when driving at dawn and dusk.

Areas near recently harvested cornfields, wooded areas and rivers and streams have a higher likelihood of deer activity.

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