Along with beautiful colors and crisp weather, fall brings increased road hazards to central Illinois. The peak mating season, or rut, for white tailed deer across our state is late October to mid-November. During this period, deer tend to move about more freely, resulting in more collisions with vehicles. In fact, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, a collision with vehicles is second only to hunting as a cause of deer mortality. IDNR and IDOT data indicate that more than 43% of deer-vehicle collisions occur in October through December, with November having the highest risk of striking a deer while driving. In 2020, 13,787 motor vehicle crashes in Illinois involved deer, and of these 13,166 caused damage to property or vehicles. Injuries resulted from 611 of these crashes, and 10 were fatal. Because deer are crepuscular (more active at dusk and dawn), most deer accidents happen between 5 and 8 a.m. and 5 and 10 p.m. Though deer collisions are most common on rural roadways, they can happen anywhere, even in urban and suburban areas. And, according to a State Farm Insurance report in 2019, the risk in our state is increasing — with a driver in that year having a one-in-144 chance of having a collision, up from a 1-in-200 chance in 2018.
The Illinois Transportation Secretary recently emphasized one important piece of advice. He said “We ask all drivers to keep a watchful eye and remember the cardinal rule: don’t veer for deer. While the urge to swerve is instinctual, it could cause you to lose control of your vehicle or drive into oncoming traffic, increasing the severity of a crash.”
Some other tips to lower your risk of hitting a deer:
If you do hit a deer, pull off to the shoulder if possible and turn on your hazard lights. It’s best to not exit your car or try to check on the deer or remove it from the road. Instead, call 911 or contact local law enforcement for help. Illinois law requires drivers to report to police any deer-related accident with more than $1500 in damage. Except for law enforcement, Illinois law also makes it illegal to kill a deer crippled by a collision without permission from a conservation police officer.
Remember, stay alert, and DON’T VEER FOR DEER!