MANSFIELD — Ohio drivers beware. Your risk of colliding with deer may be on the rise, according to officials at the Ohio Department of Public Safety and the Ohio Highway Patrol. The increased risk is partly due to the rise in reported deer-vehicle ( crashes along with the fact that October through December is peak deer mating season in the Buckeye state.
According to the department of safety, in 2017, there were 18,426 reported deer-vehicle crashes last year, down by just 13 deer crashes in 2016. They caused seven deaths and 804 injuries. There were 17,615 property damage crashes. The Ohio Department of Transportation notes that many deer collisions go unreported, so the actual number may be significantly higher. Even collisions that involve no damage to a vehicle are supposed to be reported to local law enforcement, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, or the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Richland County was second among Ohio’s 88 counties for deer-vehicle crashes. The four counties with the highest number in 2017 were Stark (501), Richland (450), Clermont (444), and Trumbull (435).
“If there’s a ‘Deer Crossing’ sign, pay attention,” said Reed Richmond, health educator at Richland Public Health and an instructor in the AARP senior driver refresher classes. “Those signs are there because they are areas well known for high and active wildlife populations. Use extreme caution, especially during these fall months and especially at dawn (5-8 a.m.) and at dusk (6-9 p.m.).”
“If you see one deer beside the road, slow down,” Richmond said. “Deer typically travel in groups, so the appearance of one approaching or crossing a road or a highway often indicates others nearby.”
November is the peak month for such collisions, representing nearly 23 percent of Ohio’s deer-vehicle crashes. Richmond had his own incident in 2016.
“It was not a pleasant experience,” he said. “But typical of these crashes. It was dusk in an area where deer are frequently seen. It happened very suddenly. I barely had time to hit my brakes.”
Should a collision appear imminent, OSHP authorities urge drivers not to swerve. Colliding with a deer is generally less hazardous than veering into opposing traffic or losing control and running off the road.
If you do collide with a deer, move your vehicle to a safe place; Contact law enforcement for medical and traffic control assistance, if needed; Document the incident: take pictures, get witness information, document damage, etc.; Don’t touch an injured animal; Don’t assume your vehicle is undamaged; Contact your company or insurance agent.