A motorists drives by a deer-crossing zone sign on Fitzgerald Road in Jonesboro. Deer-vehicle collisions occur more often during the fall season because of the hunting and rutting periods.
There are two main reasons why motorists may see deer cross their paths during the fall, according to Keith Rohling, the assistant director of the Clayton County Transportation and Development Department.
Rohling said deer will run around if people are out in the woods hunting them, or during a rut, which is their mating season.
“The highest average number of collisions with deer happen more in rural areas,” he said, although he added that a driver may also cross paths with deer in highly developed area, mainly due to the animal trying to find another wooded area to call home. That is increasingly the case, these days, as more and more wildlife habits are replaced by subdivisions and shopping centers.
Over the last 10 years, he said, the road with the highest number of deer-vehicle collisions in Clayton County has been Panhandle Road, in Hampton. Noahs Ark Road in Jonesboro comes in second, followed by Stagecoach Road in Ellenwood, Fitzgerald Road in Jonesboro, Mundy’s Mill Road in Jonesboro, and Woolsey Road in Hampton, he said.
He said motorists should pay attention to signs on the road indicating deer-crossing zones. “Normally, when we put those signs out, there has been a documented problem in that area,” explained Rohling.
He said the documents related to these collisions are accident reports filled out by law enforcement. “When we get a complaint of a lot of deer getting hit in an area and a sign is requested, we check those reports,” he said.
He said one should press on the breaks and hold the steering wheel straight, if a deer is encountered on the road. Do not attempt to swerve and go off the road, or into oncoming traffic. “Your life is more important,” he said.
Dial 911 if a deer is hit, he said. Motorists will need to provide their insurance company with a police report.
“If the deer is still on the road, don’t touch it, because it will kick and it will hurt,” advised Rohling.
Allstate Insurance Company Spokesman John Heid said data form the Insurance Information Institute shows that there are 1.6 million deer-vehicle collisions a year in the U.S., which have resulted in 200 occupant fatalities, more than 10,000 injuries, and over $3.6 billion in vehicle damage.
“Once the first frost arrives, male deer activity increases and we see more auto-and-deer collisions,” he said. “Drivers need to be extra cautious when driving, to make sure that they do not hit deer running across the road.”
He said, if drivers are not watching for deer, not only can the animal be harmed but they could endanger their lives and cause damage to their vehicles.
Deer are unpredictable, said Heid, especially when faced with headlights, horns and speedy vehicles. Deer move in groups, and if one is spotted, it is highly likely there are more nearby, he added.
“Drive with caution when moving through deer-crossing zones, in areas known to have a large deer population and in areas where roads divide agricultural fields from forestland,” said Heid.
He said at night, drivers should turn on their high beams when there is no oncoming traffic. This will better illuminate the eyes of deer that are on, or near, the road.
“Be especially attentive from sunset to midnight, and during the hours shortly before and after sunrise,” he said. “These are the highest-risk times for deer-vehicle collisions.