Don't veer for deer: Accidents peak in coming months
"Don't veer for deer."
That's the advice of Nathan Bowie, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
Vehicle collisions with deer have decreased in both Minnesota and North Dakota, but the next two months are the peak times for accidents with the animals because hunting, farming and the search for food leads to an increase in their movement.
According to the North Dakota 2010 crash summary released by the state Department of Transportation, the state reported 2,956 deer crashes in 2010, a decrease of almost 16 percent from 2009, when 3,519 deer-vehicle incidents were reported.
The past year also marked the fourth consecutive year crashes decreased and the fewest number of crashes since 2000.
Minnesota reported 2,570 vehicle-deer collisions in 2010, a slight decrease from 2009's figure of 2,643.
"You can reduce the severity of the outcome," said Lt. Jody Skogen, safety and education officer with the North Dakota State Patrol. "Your vehicle can be unforgiving if you jerk too hard, and it can cause a rollover. The deer strike is far less serious than if you overreact and go into a rollover."
Drive defensively, be prepared for those unexpected encounters and always wear your seat belt."
According to the DOT crash summary, October and November are the two months most vehicle-deer accidents happen.
During the past three years in Minnesota, there have been 7,751 deer-vehicle accidents. About 36 percent, or 2,807, have occurred during those two peak months.
Last year in North Dakota, 595 crashes took place in November and 351 in October, making up more than 30 percent of the yearly total.
Deer crashes are most likely to occur at dusk or dawn. Most crashes occur between 8 and 11 p.m. with a spike between 5 and 8 a.m., as well.
"Evening hours, early morning hours is when they're moving from feeding sites to resting sites," Skogen said. "Those are the times of day you're most likely to see them."
Hunting, farming and the expansion of houses into rural areas all affect deer movement, Bowie said.
In the three-year period from 2008 to 2010, Becker County reported 75 crashes, including eight injury crashes and no fatalities.
Otter Tail County reported 262 crashes, including 25 injury crashes and one fatality.
Hubbard County had 19 crashes, including five injury crashes and no fatalities.
Mahnomen County had 18 crashes, including five injury crashes and no fatalities.
During the past three years, Minnesota has had 19 fatalities, with 15 coming from riders of motorcycles. North Dakota has had two fatalities in vehicle-deer incidents.
Bowie said the large concentration of motorcycles in the state is one reason why Minnesota has a greater number of fatalities despite similar crash figures.
Minnesota has about 225,000 registered motorcycles, an all-time high. Bowie said motorcyclists should attempt a quick stop using both breaks if a deer crosses their path.
"Often, riders use only their rear brake," he said.
"If you can't stop in time and have adequate space, release your brakes before impact and attempt to swerve. Avoid riding at dusk and dawn at this time of year."
(Chris Bieri writes for the Grand Forks Herald)