Kansas deer-vehicle collisions peak in November
TOPEKA — Leaves are turning, and fall is in the air — and deer are crossing highways. The peak of the deer breeding season, which occurs the first three weeks in November, is when deer-vehicle collisions are highest. That’s why the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT), the Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) are working together to increase awareness and help drivers avoid collisions with deer.

According to KDWP biologist, Lloyd Fox, the increase in deer-vehicle crashes is strongly influenced by the deer mating season, with activity peaking in mid-November. Deer behavior is focused on mating during this annual period called “the rut.” Deer travel more during this season than during other seasons, and they are less cautious about hazards such as vehicles. Other deer behavior factors contribute to an increase in deer-vehicle crashes during the fall. Many deer shift their core movement area to a new location in the fall as crops are harvested and leaves fall from trees and shrubs, making the deer less secure in many locations they used during the summer.

Not only are deer more active during the fall, shorter days mean dusk and dawn — when deer are more likely to be on the move — occur when commuter traffic is highest.

According to KDOT spokesperson Steve Swartz, there were 9,628 deer-vehicle collisions in 2009. Deer-vehicle collisions occur in every Kansas county. In most cases, counties with the highest populations recorded the most deer-vehicle crashes. Sedgwick County had the most crashes with 395, followed by Johnson County with 353 and Butler County with 286. More details, including a map showing all accidents and deer accidents by county, may be found on the KDOT web site, . Statistics for 2009 have not been posted.

Motorists should observe the following tips to avoid deer collisions:

  • be especially watchful at dawn and dusk when deer are particularly active;
  • deer seldom travel alone, so if one crosses a road, there may be others following;
  • reduce speed and be alert near wooded areas or green spaces such as parks or golf courses and near water sources such as streams or ponds;
  • don’t swerve to avoid a collision with a deer because the most serious accidents occur when motorists take evasive action;
  • heed deer crossing sign warnings and always wear a seat belt; and
  • use bright lights and slow down whenever the reflective eyes of deer are spotted.

According to KHP Captain Art Wilburn, if you hit a deer, pull onto the shoulder, turn on your emergency flashers, and watch for traffic before exiting your vehicle. Do not try to remove a deer from the roadway unless you are certain it is dead; an injured deer could hurt you. If you have a cellular phone and are on a Kansas highway, dial *47 (*HP) for a highway patrol dispatcher or *582 (*KTA) for assistance on the Kansas Turnpike, or dial 911.

Anyone involved in a vehicle-deer crash that results in personal injury or property damage that totals $1,000 or more is required to immediately report the crash to the nearest law enforcement agency. Failure to report any traffic crash is a misdemeanor and may result in suspension of driving privileges.

If you are involved in a non-injury crash on an interstate, U.S. highway, or any divided or multi-lane road in the state of Kansas, and if you are not transporting hazardous materials, it is required by law to move your vehicle out of the lane of traffic. This law is intended to help keep drivers and passengers safe by getting them out of the lane of traffic, and away from oncoming vehicles. Make sure you and your passengers are buckled up and are using the appropriate child safety seats, which are the best ways to prevent injuries or death should you be involved in a crash.

For more information, contact one of the following:

Kansas Dept. of Transportation
Contact: Steve Swartz
(785) 296- 3585

Kansas Highway Patrol
Contact: Art Wilburn
(785) 296-6800

Kansas Dept. of Wildlife and Parks
Contact: Kathleen Dultmeier
(785) 296-8951