Deer collision study being planned

By Ed Brock

Ronald Languell says he could never bring himself to shoot a deer.

But sometimes it must be tempting, especially when they come into his yard and eat not only the plants in his garden but the seed from his bird feeder.

"I have two acres here and I can't keep them out," said Languell who lives on North Bridge Road in south Clayton County. "They are thick right out here."

And that also means there are a lot of collisions between deer and cars along Languell's road. He sees the remains of deer involved in those accidents laying on the side of the road at least three times a week, and he's had a few close calls himself.

A few years ago one of his daughters had two separate accidents involving deer, the second one being the worst.

"It totaled (her car) out the last time. She hit a huge buck," Languell said.

Accidents like that are on the rise throughout Georgia, and that's the reason for a $300,000 study scheduled to begin in February. The Georgia Department of Transportation, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the University of Georgia and Berry College are conducting the study.

Department of Transportation research engineer David Jared said the study is an effort to look at deer behavior and deer and audio responses to various mitigation techniques, from reflectors to fencing to whistles.

In 2002, there were 9,609 deer-vehicle collisions on Georgia roads. Seven people were killed in the accidents and 708 people were injured. The accidents required a total of more than $21 million in repairs, or an average repair cost of $2,250, officials said.

Henry County has seen a serious increase in the number of accidents caused by objects or animals in the roadway, according to statistics put together by the Henry County Police Department. Between Jan. 1 and Dec. 5, 2002 there were 559 such accidents in the county while in the same time frame in 2003 there were 1,168 such accidents.

"We have basically a couple a day," Henry County police Lt. Joe Tammaro said. "Our numbers are high here because we're encroaching on their environment."

Languell had the same theory, and Clayton County police Capt. Jeff Turner said deer overpopulation is another factor.

"Over the years it has become more prevalent," Turner said.

The number of deer/car accidents actually declined some in the past two years, with 131 accidents in 2002 and 106 this year to date.

Some safety advocates say Georgia should install on the sides of highways reflectors mounted on poles at the level of vehicle headlights. A bright light would be reflected on the side of the road, illuminating the area where a deer may be.

While some officials are open to reflectors as well as fencing and other methods designed to cut down on deer-vehicle accidents, the most effective method remains controlling the deer population, said Jay Cantrell, a Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.