Monday, November 13, 2000

'Tis the season for deer-car crashes


Hamilton County No. 1 in Ohio in collisions

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's an annual rite of autumn: Deer and cars collide on Tristate roads, resulting in the biggest road kill season of the year.

TIPS TO AVOID DEER
img
Deer scampers away from I-275 near Kellogg Ave.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
  • Be aware: If you see one deer, expect others may follow.
  • After dark: Use high-beams if possible. They illuminate the eyes of deer and provide more time for motorists to react.
  • Don't swerve into another lane to avoid a deer. The greater risk is hitting an oncoming car.
  • Drive defensively from 5 p.m. to midnight and during hours shortly before and after sunrise when deer movement is most frequent.
INFOGRAPHIC
Statistics on deer-vehicle collisions
        Some 3,634 deer were struck by vehicles last year in nine Southwestern Ohio counties — a 15 percent jump over the year before, numbers recently released by the Ohio Insurance Institute show.

        Deer-vehicle collisions in the state accounted for more than $71 million in insurance claims in 1999, the institute says. Losses in Hamilton County were more than $1.8 million.

        Nowhere in Ohio are deer killed more often than in Hamilton County, which had 724 collisions last year — 61 more than the next closest county.

        October, November and December are the worst months for deer strikes. It's mating season, and the big animals are on the move, particularly during the hours around dawn and dusk.

        The Ohio State Highway Patrol has issued an advisory urging motorists to drive with extra caution through December. It estimates more than 25,000 vehicles will collide with deer statewide this year.

        Dane Shannon, 35, of Georgetown, Ohio, has already had his run-in.

        He was driving along a fog-shrouded U.S. 52 on his way to work in Cincinnati at about 5:45 a.m. Tuesday when a buck appeared out of nowhere.

        “He just came right out of the fog at a full run and hit me right in the driver's side door,” Mr. Shannon said. “He was a pretty big one, too.”

        Mr. Shannon, an avid deer hunter, said he's well aware this is rutting season and usually tries to keep an eye out for deer on the roadways. This was his first accident involving a deer. Damage: a caved-in van door.

        What's behind the increasing strikes?

        • The number of white-tail deer — the most common kind regionally — has grown to 475,000 this fall because hunting is limited in populated areas and deer have no natural predators here.

        • Deer have adapted quite well to suburbia. Metropolitan parks and other woods offer havens for deer displaced by urban sprawl, and they're happy to survive by raiding backyard gardens and feasting on nut and fruit trees.

        • Traffic has grown. Add in the region's hilly terrain — which limits views of the road and cuts reaction time — and deer strikes become even more common.

        Two weeks ago, Robert E. Minnie, 29, of Williamsburg died after being thrown from his motorcycle after colliding with a deer on U.S. 52 just east of Utopia in Brown County, Ohio.

        The Insurance Information Institute reports that nationwide there are more than 500,000 deer/car collisions each year re sulting in more than 100 deaths, thousands of injuries and millions of dollars in damage.

        In Northern Kentucky, Boone, Campbell, Kenton and Pendleton counties recorded 53 car-deer collisions in 1999, the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources said.

        The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office has been taking deer/vehicle crash reports about every other day for the past month. Since 1989, more than 5,300 deer have been hit in the county.

        “There is no reason to expect these accidents to stop until we stop developing our rural countrysides,” said Mike Tonkovich, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' wildlife division.

        “As you lay down more pavement through prime deer habitat, you are creating more opportunity for accidents to occur.”

        Alvin Creech, manager of Blue Ash Auto Body repair shop, has seen the damage a deer can do.

        “Deer strikes typically generate a lot of front-end damage, damage to the hood and sometimes they even come right through the windshield,” Mr. Creech said. “Hitting a deer can be very scary.”

        Even scarier can be the cost of repairing the damage. The average insurance claim for deer collisions in Ohio last year was more than $2,600, the Ohio Insurance Institute said.

        Insurers typically do not figure losses from deer/vehicle collisions when determining premium rate hikes, institute spokeswoman Mary Bonelli said.

        But that may be little consolation for someone whose 3,500-pound vehicle has just met up with a 200-pound creature.

        “When you're driving 60 miles per hour, (even) hitting a robin can throw you seriously off course,” Mr. Tonkovich said.

You kill deer, you can have it



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