SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) are reminding motorists deer are more active during the fall and as cooler weather approaches the likelihood of vehicle vs. deer crashes increases. Department officials are urging motorcyclists to be particularly alert when in areas where deer are likely to be present. In 2005 the number of motorists killed by running into a deer almost doubled from six in 2004 to 11 in 2005, of which eight were either the drivers or passengers on motorcycles.
“Last year we had more people killed in deer vs. vehicle accidents than ever before since we’ve been collecting this data. One of the most troubling aspects of this was the vast majority involved motorcyclists,” said Timothy W. Martin, Secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation. “Deer crashes occur throughout the year, but they are most active in the fall, and you must remember they are everywhere in Illinois, in every county, including highly urban areas like Cook and Madison counties.”
Fall is the busiest season for these crashes as deer seek mates and food sources. In 2005, preliminary statistics show there were 23,694 deer-vehicle accidents reported in the state, down 8% from 25,831 the year before. The 11 fatalities reported last year was the highest number of fatalities since IDOT began tracking the state for all roadways in 1989.
“Deer are at their most active at dawn and dusk, which is also a busy travel time as people are trying to get to and from work. Drivers need to keep that in mind and be cautious, especially when driving by areas that are prime deer habitat,” said Sam Flood, acting-Director of IDNR. “Motorists need to be on the lookout for these animals on country roads, interstates and even urban streets. Be especially cautious near areas where deer are likely to be present, such as wooded areas, stream and creek beds, farm field edges, and parks or forest preserves.”
The top 10 Illinois counties for deer-vehicle accidents in 2005 were:
Cook - 995
Madison - 664
Sangamon - 579
Pike - 572
Peoria - 517
Lake - 516
Will - 509
Kane - 501
McHenry - 447
LaSalle - 444
Among the suggestions for motorists to avoid deer-vehicle accidents:
• Be especially cautious at dusk and dawn when deer are most active.
• Keep track of locations where deer have been seen in the past to avoid being surprised by deer crossing roads.
• Reduce speed and be prepared to stop on roads where deer may be present, especially areas near streams or rivers, farm field edges, wooded and densely vegetated areas.
• Be mindful that several others may follow a single deer near a road.
• Deer may cross the roadway and double back across the road. Make sure deer have moved away before proceeding.
• Drivers encountering deer on the roadway should try flashing their headlights from bright to dim or honking their horn to try to encourage the deer to move on.
• Alert other motorists to the presence of deer by tapping the brakes.
• Avoid swerving into oncoming traffic or off the road if deer are on the roadway - slow to a stop and wait for the deer to move along.
If a deer-vehicle accident does occur, drivers and passengers involved should provide assistance to anyone injured. Contact local, county or state law enforcement - do not attempt to remove a dead or injured deer from a busy roadway. Illinois law requires all accidents resulting in damage of $500 or more to be reported and an accident report to be filed with the police.
The driver involved in an accident involving a deer may take possession of the animal. If the driver does not want it, any Illinois resident may claim the deer. Anyone possessing the deer must keep a personal record of the date the deer was claimed, the sex of the animal, the location of the accident, and the place where the deer or deer parts are stored. This information must be kept until the deer is consumed or no longer in the possession of any person. This information must be provided to any law enforcement officer investigating the death and possession of the deer.
Those taking possession of vehicle-killed deer are not required to phone in a report and obtain a registration number for the deer unless the deer is taken to a taxidermist or tannery. If the deer is to be taken to a taxidermist or tannery, please call the IDNR Office of Law Enforcement at 217/782-6431 to obtain a tag before delivering the deer.