Drivers face extra road dangers this season

Monday, October 8, 2007

There's nothing more dangerous than a drunk or drowsy driver, but this time of year, especially, motorists have another hazard to worry about.

Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas drivers probably won't be surprised that car collisions with deer account for more than 150 human and nearly half a million deer fatalities a year.

Each of those collisions causes an average of $2,000 in damage to the vehicle, not to mention injury or death for the deer and possibly even to the driver.

For a variety of reasons, October through December is the peak season for car crashes with deer -- probably because of the combination of deer mating and migration habits, and shortened daylight hours.

Anyone who has driven in our region for many years is extremely lucky if they've never had an abrupt encounter with odocoileus virginianus (white tail) or odocoileus hemionus (mule deer).

And don't joke about those "deer crossing" signs; even if the antlers are on backwards, the signs are placed along known deer crossing routes.

Don't put too much faith in deer whistles or other ultrasonic deer avoidance systems -- independent studies have never proven them to work.

Some other tips:

* Slow down -- especially at dawn and dusk and in known deer areas -- which includes all of the Golden Plains.

* Stay alert and keep your eyes open, scanning the sides of the road ahead, and be prepared. Watch for eyes reflecting in your headlights.

* If you see a deer, slow down more, and honk your horn and flash your lights to try to scare it away.

* Above all, maintain control of your vehicle, and think twice before swerving -- you may also inadvertently hit another vehicle or go off on a dangerous shoulder.

And always remember, deer travel in herds -- if you see one cross the road in front of you, don't assume that the road is clear. More than likely, there are others around.

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