ST. LOUIS - Every year, tens of thousands of drivers in Missouri and Illinois collide with deer. This week, Today in St. Louis’ Abby Llorico became one of them.
It happens a lot.
In 2016, 14,759 crashes involving deer were reported in Illinois. Of those, 581 resulted in injuries, and five people died. Missouri reports 4,604 crashes with 455 injuries and six deaths, but Captain John Hotz with the Missouri State Highway Patrol says that’s only those reported to them and that the number is likely much higher.
White-tailed deer are most common in our area. Most collisions will happen after dusk and before daw, between October and December. This is also when deer are in rut, meaning they will go greater distances looking for mates.
That means deer cross roads and highways. The best way to avoid a crash is to drive slowly.
Driving slowly will give you time to stop for the deer. Since they usually travel in groups, check around for more deer near the road before proceeding. If the road is clear of other vehicles, turn your brights on to better see them up ahead.
In almost every case, it is not a good idea to swerve to avoid hitting the deer. Not only does this complicate insurance claims, but you are also much more likely to be seriously injured if you hit another car, roll into a ditch, or veer into a tree or pole.
If you know you’re going to hit the deer, ease off the brake. If you slam on the break at the moment of impact, the front of the vehicle can tilt down and the deer is more likely to go up into your windshield.
Once you’ve hit the deer, remain calm.
Pull to the side of the road if possible to assess damage. While neither Missouri nor Illinois require every deer-car collision to be reported to police, an officer will come out and file a report if you call 911. That could prove helpful for insurance later.
What can be done to keep the deer off the road?
The Missouri Department of Conservation has programs to manage deer when they reach nuisance levels in communities or on an individuals land, and these require special permits and management. Otherwise, much of the population mitigation happens from controlled hunting during the year, according to MDC.
But when it comes to keeping deer off the road, it's a more difficult situation. Even while there seem to be more deer along the roads, there are fewer signs warning of their presence. According to Brian Umfleet with MoDOT, those aren't being installed anymore because they did not appear to have an impact on reducing collisions.
And building a wall won't keep them out either. It would need to be 12 feet tall to keep deer from jumping over it, but that would block them in both directions.
"Installation of the fence could essentially trap the deer on the highway if they were to get on the highway from an exit ramp, etc."
Other warning or deterrent systems that have been tried in the area, such as post mounted reflectors, have also proven ineffective, according to Umfleet.