SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – Fall is here, and so is deer mating season.
During this time between October and December, deer become more active especially at dawn and dusk. Last year, more than 42% of crashes involving deer in Illinois occurred in October, November and December, with November being the highest-risk month.
Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Champaign Sherriff’s Department are reminding motorists to practice safety while on the road.
There are some important factors when assessing your risk for road safety, and how deer activity could impact your driving.
Time of day
“Please be cautious while on the road as deer are particularly active during the mating season in the fall and during busy driving times around dawn and dusk,” said IDNR Director Colleen Callahan.
Champaign Chief Deputy Sherriff Shannon Barrett also emphasizes taking extra caution when driving during peak activity times, during dusk and dawn.
Additionally, Barrett advises the public to use high beams at night too.
Be aware of your surroundings
IDOT and IDNR encourage drivers to be aware of all surroundings, scan the sides of the road for eye shine, slow down for a deer sighting, and prepare for the unexpected.
Deer can also appear suddenly in surprising environments, so they also encourage everyone to be on alert, slow down and pay attention in areas where they are known to travel.
“Traffic signs are posted where they are for a reason,” Barrett said. “Watch speed limits. Be cautious in deer zones.”
According to IDOT, rural environments were the site of more than 72% of all motor vehicle crashes involving deer, with more than 71% occurring at twilight or nighttime.
Don’t veer for deer
If you do come across a deer in the road, IDOT has a recommendation that may surprise you.
“Don’t veer for deer,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “It could cause you to lose control of your vehicle and swerve into another lane or off the road.”
Another reason not to swerve, you may risk hitting more than one deer.
“Deer often travel in groups, so if a deer crosses the road ahead of you, there is a good possibility that another will follow,” said Osman. “Always be prepared for the unexpected. A deer might stop in the middle of the road or double back.”
Stay in your vehicle
IDOT and IDNR said if you hit a deer, pull off to the shoulder of the road, turn on your hazard lights and call 911 to report the accident. Do not exit the vehicle to check on an injured deer or pull it from the road.
In 2021, 14,522 motor vehicle crashes involved deer in Illinois. Of these, 13,936 resulted in damage to property or vehicles, while 584 caused personal injuries. Two of the crashes resulted in fatalities.