Longtime sheriff’s officer warns drivers to watch out for deer
Whether driving in the city of Leavenworth or down a quiet county road, area residents should be on the lookout for deer, according to sheriff's Sgt. Andy Dedeke.
"I've had several close calls just driving my personal vehicle in town," Dedeke said about driving in the city of Leavenworth. "You don't expect deer to be coming from residential houses. And they're there.
The Kansas Highway Patrol offers these tips to avoid and lessen the severity of deer-related wrecks:
- Intentionally look for deer. Be especially alert at dawn and dusk.
- Slow down near woods, parks, golf courses, streams and deer-crossing signs.
- When one deer crosses the road, be prepared to stop for others. They usually travel in groups.
- Slow down when approaching a deer that's standing by the roadside. They have a tendency to bolt into the road.
- Always wear a seat belt. Statistics show that most people injured or killed in deer-related collisions were not wearing seatbelts.
¢ If you hit a deer, pull onto the shoulder, turn on your emergency flashers and watch for traffic before getting out. Don't try to remove the deer from the road unless you're sure it's dead. If you have a cell phone on a state highway, dial *47 (HP) for the Kansas Highway Patrol or *582 (KTA) on the Kansas Turnpike.
"I've seen a lot more during the day recently. Not just in rural parts of the county, but in the cities as well."
Although deer accidents occur throughout the year, most occur during the fall and winter months.
During final three months of last year, the sheriff's office reported 92 deer accidents. From January to September of this year, the county reported 71 accidents.
As the weather gets cooler, Dedeke said, deer are more prevalent near roads.
"They go where the food is, for one," Dedeke said. "And I believe rutting season, if it hasn't started, it's around the corner."
Rutting season also is known as mating season for deer.
Dedeke said drivers need to drive defensively. They also should actively look for deer.
"Drive your vehicle at a safe speed," Dedeke said. "Expect the unexpected. If you are confronted with striking the deer, although it goes against your intuition, try to stay in your lane."
Swerving into another lane, Dedeke said, poses the risk of hitting another vehicle.
"You end up with a much more serious accident than if you would have struck the animal," Dedeke said.
Drivers also should know where deer could be, according to Dedeke. Deer crossing signs indicate that many accidents have occurred in that area, or that the land's topography indicates high vegetation.
"Elements to survive are there in that area," Dedeke said. "It's highly likely that deer would be there."
In addition, drivers should be aware of where bodies of water are located, as deer likely would be near.
According to Kansas Department of Transportation deer accident statistics, Leavenworth County ranked fourth last year among Kansas counties in deer accidents. In 2003, Leavenworth County ranked No. 3.
Johnson County again led all 105 Kansas counties with 430 deer-related accidents in 2004. The previous year, Johnson County also had the most deer accidents, but had 359 in 2003. Sedgwick County again was second, this year with 386. Shawnee County was third with 276 and Leavenworth County followed close behind with 270. In other area counties, Douglas had 242 accidents, Wyandotte County 195 and Jefferson County 172.
Greeley County, in western Kansas, had the least number of deer accidents in 2004. That county had two.
In comparison with population, Leavenworth ranks sixth among Kansas counties, according to recent census estimates. Johnson County is No. 1 and Sedgwick No. 2.
Overall, KDOT reported 9,950 deer-vehicle accidents last year in Kansas, which was an increase of more than 9 percent from 2003 when the state had 9,108 accidents. In 2004, accidents caused 364 injuries and four deaths. In 2003, there were 332 injuries and no deaths.