PEKIN — It’s that time of year to be looking out for deer on the road.
Starting in late October through early December is when drivers need to be aware of where deer typically are in order to avoid deer-vehicle accidents.
Paul Shelton, Forest Wildlife Program manager at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, urges drivers to pay attention to places with trees and fields along a roadway where deer might be.
“As the rut season approaches, deer might be by themselves, but they might not. Expect the unexpected. Be prepared. Be aware of where you have seen deer in the past,” Shelton said.
The number of accidents increase steadily in October and November. Then, the number of accidents drops due to hunting season.
“What we see is, later this month, numbers (of collisions) increase,” said Shelton. “Then the numbers peak between the 10th and 20th of November.”
The first firearm deer season in Illinois runs from Nov. 18-20. Shelton said that hunters around the state typically kill between 80,000 to 100,000 deer over that short period of time and after that weekend, the number of collisions decrease. That does not mean drivers should not be aware of where deer typically cross the road though. Shelton said the number of collisions vary by the time of day and day of the week because deer are more active with commuter traffic. He said weekday mornings seem to be a consistent popular time.
Shelton attributes it to “does looking for places to have their fawns but usually the fawns from last season are still with them and the does are trying to get them to leave and be on their own.”
The number of collisions is lowest in August.
Shelton said hundreds of drivers are injured and there are usually five or six fatalities involving cars or trucks. He said the number of fatalities for those on motorcycles is higher.
Over the past few years, there have been “considerably fewer collisions” than in previous years the IDNR has observed.
There are several tips Shelton has for drivers this time of year should they see a deer on or near the road.
“The primary thing to do is brake,” he said. “Brake, but maintain control of the vehicle. Losing control
of the vehicle is much more serious than hitting the deer typically. If that means hitting a deer at a slower rate of speed then that’s what happens. Deer may react, they may not. Swerving is not a good idea. You might swerve into another vehicle, off the road into a tree or barrier, or you may swerve the same direction as the deer does and then you directly hit it.”
Pekin Police Public Information Officer Mike Eeten also said slowing down when seeing deer is a good idea.
“Avoid slamming on your brakes,” Eeten said. “Try not to swerve because you could swerve into another lane either head on or into the lane next to you.”
So far, this year in Pekin, as of Oct. 11, the total number of crashes involving an animal, not limited to deer, is 26. This year and last year’s totals of vehicle-animal accidents, not limited to deer, are 33.
There are three “trouble spots” in particular in Pekin for deer accidents.
Eeten said one is on North 8th Street near Lakeside Cemetery. The second is on North Parkway Drive close to Henderson Funeral Home and Crematory and the dog training area. The third is on Court Street around Taco Bell. Deer come out of the wooded areas on Audubon Drive and cross to the other side of Court Street.
Slowing down helped Teresa Mack of Pekin last fall. She was driving to dinner with her husband just after dusk and as they were going north on Illinois Route 29 through North Pekin and Marquette Heights, she saw a doe dart across the road. Mack said she slowed down, afraid there were more deer nearby.
“Out of nowhere, I heard a thump against the driver’s side front quarter panel of my Jeep,” Mack said. “A young deer that still had spots had followed the doe across the road and smashed right into the side of my Jeep. The Jeep survived with minimal damage, but the deer died. I never even saw the deer hit my car though. I just heard it and knew immediately what had happened.”
Erik Heuck of Pekin was not so fortunate during his December 2009 accident. He said he was driving through Banner Marsh on Ill. Route 24 around 10 p.m. when a deer ran right across the road. Heuck did not have time to react and slow down. The accident resulted in roughly $2,000 in damage to the vehicle. Heuck was not injured.