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Fewer drivers because of COVID could mean more deer on road now

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Daniel Larlham Jr.
Daniel Larlham, Jr. is a communications major at the University of Delaware.

November is the peak of deer mating season and particularly dangerous to Delaware drivers.
November is the peak of deer mating season and particularly dangerous to Delaware drivers.

 

Because the COVID-19 pandemic has put fewer drivers on the road, there have been fewer reports of collisions with animals, and it’s possible there could be more deer on the road during mating season this fall.

That white-tailed tidbit popped up as the state, insurance companies and driver groups sounded a seasonal alarm: November typically is the peak time drivers should be careful of deer crossing roads.

As the sleek woods dwellers seek food and mate, they often dart suddenly into streets and roads, leaving drivers little time to brake.

The average white-tailed deer in the state of Delaware weighs around 130 pounds, Bucks can often push the 200-pound mark. 

 

And that can do a lot of damage. AAA Mid-Atlantic notes the average claim submitted to AAA for a deer collision is often more than $4,000.

Out of 1,800 animal collisions reported to the Delaware State Police in 2019, 60 caused personal injuries and one resulted in a fatality. 

The last three months of the year are especially dangerous for crossing dear because does are in rut during that time and because the days are shorter. 

“Bucks are very single-minded in their pursuit of does during the rut, their mating season,” said Joe Rogerson, program manager with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, “If that pursuit takes a buck or doe across a roadway in front of your vehicle, that’s where they’re going to go, whether it’s Route 1 or a rural road.”

 

Last year the Delaware Office of Highway Safety reported 461 crashes in the month of November, double that of October and triple that of December. 

Deer are most active from dusk till dawn. 

November seems to be the most dangerous because mating season for white-tailed deer peaks from Nov. 10 to 20. 

State Farm said Delaware drivers ranked 27 in the nation for animal collisions, according to its data between July 1,2019 and June 20, 2020.

Delawareans have a 1 in 109 chance to collide with an animal on a given year, according to the State Farm data. 

The vast majority of animal collisions reported are with deer. 

 

COVID, unsurprisingly, had an impact on these statistics as fewer people where driving during the spring peak of the U.S. pandemic lockdown. 

“We saw a reduction of around 20% in driving patterns and collision claims in the months of March and April,” Paul said. “One of the things people started noticing is animals walking out and about more frequently.” 

He was unsure how that will play out at the end of the year.

“Does this mean that the mating season could be more dangerous than usual because less deer has died in collisions?” Paul said. “Who knows?” 

 

DNREC recommends following these tips to reduce the risks of animal collision: 

  • Attentive driving
  •  Always wear your seatbelt to reduce your risk of injury in a collision.
  •  Reduce speed at night, on curves and in bad weather.
  • Switch to high beams when there is no oncoming traffic to better reflect the eyes of deer on or near the roadway and scan the sides of the road as well as what’s directly ahead.
  • Watch for “Deer Crossing” signs marking commonly traveled areas on the road ahead. Slow down immediately and proceed with caution until past the crossing point.
  •  Deer usually travel in groups, so if you see one deer, there are likely to be others.
  • Slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten deer away. Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors to deter deer. They have not been proven to reduce deer-vehicle collisions.
  • Do not swerve to miss a deer — brake and stay in your lane. Losing control of your vehicle, crossing into another lane, hitting an oncoming vehicle, or leaving the roadway and hitting another obstacle such as a tree or pole will likely be much more serious than hitting a deer.
  • If you hit a deer, stop at the scene, get your car off the road if possible, turn on your vehicle hazard lights and call 911.

 

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