ILLINOIS (WCIA) — As autumn arrives in Illinois, the Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois Department of Natural Resources are reminding drivers to watch out for deer.

Deer are entering their peak active season from now through December. They are especially active at dawn and dusk.

“While your natural instinct is to steer quickly out of the way when you see a deer, remember to not veer suddenly because you could lose control of your vehicle and swerve into another lane or off the road,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said. “Always prepare for the unexpected. A deer might stop in the middle of the road or double back. They also frequently travel in groups so when you see one there likely are others nearby.”

Illinois had 14,524 deer-related crashes in 2022, with damages in 13,892 of those cases. 629 crashes led to injuries while 4 crashes led to deaths. The highest risk for deer collisions occurs from October through December, with November being the most dangerous month. More than 40% of deer crashes happened during this timespan last year. In 2022, 70% of these accidents happened in rural areas, mostly at twilight or nighttime.

Deer can often appear suddenly in random places, so proceed with caution in deer-heavy areas. If you hit a deer, pull off to the shoulder, turn on your hazard lights and call 9-1-1. Do not leave your vehicle to check on the deer or to move it.

Some more tips for driving safe during deer-mating season include:

  • Staying alert, especially in areas with deer crossing signs.
  • Scanning the sides of the road for “eye shine,” or the reflection of headlights in deer’s eyes.
  • Slow down if you see a deer and expect others to follow.
  • Expect the unexpected. Deer may stop in the middle of the road and not move, even when a vehicle approaches.
  • If a collision is unavoidable, don’t swerve. Try to glance your vehicle off the deer without veering into other lanes or off the road.

The top 10 Illinois counties for deer-related crashes in 2022 were:

  1. Cook: 542 crashes
  2. Madison: 396 crashes
  3. McHenry: 351 crashes
  4. Lake: 350 crashes
  5. Will: 344 crashes
  6. Peoria: 323 crashes
  7. Fulton: 313 crashes
  8. Kane: 286 crashes
  9. Sangamon: 282 crashes
  10. Macoupin: 271 crashes

“Deer are a part of the Illinois landscape, and drivers should be mindful of their presence,” IDNR Director Natalie Phelps Finnie said. “Drive cautiously this time of year, especially at dawn and dusk, when deer are particularly active for the fall mating season.”

For information on how to deal with a deer involved in a crash, or to report possession of a deer killed in a crash, click here or visit the IDNR website.