Archive for Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Deer crossing

Accident race climbing in Leavenworth County

November 3, 2004

It was a startling experience.

Gary Ditty took on an unwanted, four-legged passenger as he drove last week south of Tonganoxie.

As Ditty was driving on Leavenworth County Road 25 --between the Kansas Turnpike overpass and Douglas Road --a deer appeared on the road.

Going about 50 mph, Ditty said he didn't want to brake at that speed. Instead, he moved into the oncoming lane.

The buck -- a six-pointer Ditty thought weighed about 200 pounds -- still met his Jeep Cherokee.

The animal came through Ditty's windshield.

Ditty then slammed on the brakes, which caused the buck to fly out of the window. The animal landed on the side of the road.

2002 2003 2004

Jan. 27 11 17

Feb. 26 16 8

March 19 17 7

April 8 11 2

May 14 10 7

June 14 16 14

July 16 9 12

Aug. 4 6 6

Sept. 8 13 11

Oct. 13 30

Nov. 41 37

Dec. 26 32

Totals 216 208 84 Source: Leavenworth County sheriff

"I've hit deer before and a cow and a dog but never have I had one come up and become a passenger before," Ditty said. "That was pretty exciting."

Ditty, who is the county engineer/public works director for Leavenworth County, said he travels county roads all the time.

He sees many a deer on County Road 1 just north of Hemphill Road.

But not on County Road 25, at least not before last week. Ditty said he now is on "red-alert" when he takes that route.

"I'm a deer hunter so I know that that's the time of the year that they're moving, but I've just never seen any there before," Ditty said. "Now I'm on deer alert when I go out there."

Ditty certainly is correct about the increased movement of deer.

October, November and December usually are peak months for accidents.

A dubious honor

¢ Intentionally look for deer. Be especially alert at dawn and dusk, which are the peak movement times for deer and when visibility is low.

¢ Slow down near woods, parks, golf courses, streams and deer-crossing signs, which are posted where deer-vehicle collisions have repeatedly occurred.

¢ Deer usually travel in groups. When one deer crosses the road, there may be others about to cross. Be prepared to stop for others darting into the road.

¢ Slow down when approaching deer standing near roadsides. They have a tendency to bolt, possibly into the road. Use emergency flashers to warn oncoming drivers after you see deer near the road.

¢ Always wear your seatbelt. Statistics show that most people injured or killed in deer-related collisions were not wearing seatbelts.

According to Kansas Department of Transportation statistics, Leavenworth County ranked No. 3 among Kansas counties in deer accidents during 2003. Johnson County led all 105 counties with 359 deer-related accidents, while Sedgwick County was second with 322. Leavenworth County had 302 accidents.

In comparison with population, Leavenworth ranks No. 6 in Kansas counties, while Sedgwick is No. 1 and Johnson a close second.

According to KDOT, 9,108 deer-vehicle accidents occurred last year in Kansas, causing 332 injuries and no deaths.

Ditty's accident happened between 6:15 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., which fits into one of two ideal times for deer to be on the move -- dusk and dawn.

No matter the time of day or year, motorists should be careful. As Sgt. Andy Dedeke of the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office said, there are fewer accidents in warmer months, but drivers should be cautious no matter what time of year it is.

"They're still active all year," Dedeke said.

Dedeke has a few tips for drivers when on the road.

The natural reaction, Dedeke said, was to stomp on the brake and avoid a collision. It's better, he said, to slow down, rather than try to stop suddenly.

"Often times it's better to strike a deer rather than end up in the ditch or cross lanes and hit another vehicle," Dedeke said.

Dedeke also said that divers always should put on their hi-beams -- when possible.

"Outside of the basic scan the road, scan ahead, don't drive past the posted speed limit," Dedeke said.

To report -- or not

All deer accidents do not necessarily need to be reported to law enforcement officers, Dedeke said.

If the accident causes less than $500 damage, it does not need to be reported. However, if the deer is lying on the road or near it, Dedeke asks that the sheriff's office be notified so the deer can be removed. If the deer is salvageable, the driver can take the animal.

Dedeke offered the deer to Ditty, but considering the traumatic experience, Ditty declined. He said the accident was a little too traumatizing to haul off the buck.

When drivers opt not to take the carcass, officers will notify someone on a deer list to take care of the deer. To be put on the list, contact the sheriff's office, (913) 724-1313.

Ditty has seen enough deer for the time being. Although some deer seasons already have started, Ditty doesn't want to see any more six-pointers -- at least not on the road.

"You gotta know I'm a little gun shy," Ditty said. "I was lucky it just damaged the vehicle. ... If I would have had a passenger with me, they probably would have been killed. I was lucky I wasn't hurt."

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