DNR: As more deer venture onto roads, refresh your defensive driving habits

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by Megan Trent

FRANKLIN, Ind. (October 20, 2014) - During the fall months, deer become more active and visible. That can create dangerous situations for drivers, but there are ways to protect yourself while on the road.

According to DNR officials, nearly 50% of all accidents involving white-tailed deer occur between now and the end of the year.

"When the farmers harvest their crops, they are taking away the deer's food sources and cover. So those deer are going to be moving about, trying to find new locations to conceal themselves," explains Indiana Conservation Officer Jet Quillen.

The next few months are also mating season, or rut season, for white-tailed deer. As a result, deer become more active and seek out a mate.

"Deer are going to be a little more active between sunset and sunrise," says Quillen. "They're going to be traveling in groups. So if you see one, more than likely there's going to be more."

Brad Epperson is a firefighter and paramedic in Johnson County, where on Monday two accidents involving deer happened. Epperson says most accidents involving deer happen in rural areas, but it's possible for them to happen anywhere. He says that's why drivers need to be defensive.

"Especially at night when you can't see too well, probably driving slower than normal is a good thing," advises Epperson. "Scanning ahead and keeping your senses about you is also wise."

"If traffic permits, drive with your high beams," suggests Quillen. "That will be able to illuminate the deer's eyes a little better. You'll be able to see them from a farther distance."

If a deer does jump out in front of your car, resist the urge to swerve out of the way. Both Quillen and Epperson agree, that is how the majority of injuries occur in accidents involving deer.

"Try not to swerve. That can cause a worse accident for the driver," says Epperson.  "If at all possible, you just want to keep on going straight. If you hit the animal, then that's a better situation than you running off the road and hitting a tree or hitting another vehicle."

If you do collide with a deer, never get out of your car and get close to it.

"Do not approach the animal," insists Quillen. "They can be significantly dangerous. If they're just injured or stunned, they can cause injury to the person."

Instead, call police.

"If the deer is hit and hurt, it would be a good idea to go ahead and contact law enforcement as well so they can come out," says Epperson.

In addition to deer, there's also more farming equipment out on area roads during this time of year.

"The farm equipment that’s being used to harvest the crops, they need to travel on the roadway at times," says Quillen. "Just be prepared for large, slow-moving vehicles on the roadway. They should have illuminated lights. They should have the warning triangles that you should be able to see from a distance. So slow down, especially if you’re in an area where there’s a lot of farm fields.”

It's okay to pass a piece of farming equipment, but only if it is safe and permitted under normal traffic laws.

"Normal traffic laws apply. If you’re in a passing zone and can pass them safely, by all means pass them, but always be cautious," advises Quillen. "We do see an increase in accidents related to farm equipment too.”

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