DRIV­ERS BE­WARE

Ev­ery day, a car hits a deer in Wis­con­sin. This week is among the most dan­ger­ous.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Front Page - Joe Taschler, Paul Gores and An­drew Mol­lica

Mo­torists be­ware. This week is among the most dan­ger­ous times of the year for folks trav­el­ing Wis­con­sin’s roads and high­ways as white-tailed deer, con­sumed with their an­nual mat­ing sea­son, in­creas­ingly run into traf­fic.

In 2017, Nov. 8 was the peak day for ve­hi­cle vs. deer crashes, with 213 across the state, ac­cord­ing to a Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sen­tinel anal­y­sis of Wis­con­sin De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion data. The year be­fore, the peak was Nov. 10.

While the num­ber of crashes peaks this time of year, no day is safe: For the sec­ond straight year, not a sin­gle day passed in 2017 with­out a motorist strik­ing a deer some­where in Wis­con­sin, the DOT data shows.

The low­est num­ber of deer crashes was on New Year’s Day, when only seven deer crashes oc­curred in the state.

From the forested north to the densely pop­u­lated south and from Lake Michi­gan in the east to the Mis­sis­sippi River in the west, 19,899 ve­hi­cles crashed into deer on Wis­con-

sin roads and high­ways last year.

Dur­ing the past five years, the num­ber of deer crashes in Wis­con­sin has re­mained fairly steady be­tween 18,300 and 20,400, ac­cord­ing to state DOT num­bers.

Most of the deer crashes in­volve dam­age to ve­hi­cles, but some have re­sulted in peo­ple dy­ing or be­ing in­jured.

In 2017, nine peo­ple were killed and 604 were in­jured in crashes with deer.

Mo­tor­cy­clists are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble. Of the nine peo­ple killed in 2017 deer crashes, six were mo­tor­cy­clists. All of the 11 peo­ple killed in deer crashes in 2016 were mo­tor­cy­clists.

Dane County had the most deer crashes in 2017 at 934, fol­lowed by Wauke­sha County at 855 and Man­i­towoc County at 784.

Ac­ci­dent costs are ris­ing

Be­yond the hu­man toll, the crashes are tak­ing an in­creas­ing fi­nan­cial toll.

Cars are in­creas­ingly likely to have safety tech­nol­ogy that helps re­duce death or in­jury for hu­mans. But all that tech­nol­ogy also makes re­pair­ing deer col­li­sions more com­pli­cated and costly.

Madi­son-based Amer­i­can Fam­ily In­sur­ance, which in­sures more pas­sen­ger cars than any other com­pany in Wis­con­sin, said it han­dled 9,046 deer-ve­hi­cle claims in 2017, with an av­er­age pay­ment of $3,362. That’s 6 per­cent more than the $3,175 av­er­age in 2016, and 13 per­cent higher than $2,968 av­er­age five years ago.

New re­search by AAA – The Auto Club Group showed that ad­vanced sys­tems such as au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing, blind spot mon­i­tor­ing and lane de­par­ture warn­ing can cost twice as much to re­pair fol­low­ing a col­li­sion of any type be­cause of ex­pen­sive sen­sors and their cal­i­bra­tion re­quire­ments.

“If that gets mis­aligned or dam­aged, you’re look­ing at more shop time, more re­pair time on those types of ve­hi­cles,” said LeRoy Hamil­ton Jr., a dam­age ap­praiser for She­boy­gan-based Acu­ity In­sur­ance.

In ad­di­tion, many typ­i­cal re­pairs re­quire orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­turer parts in­stead of af­ter­mar­ket parts, which can add to the cost.

“When­ever there’s cam­eras or sen­sors in­volved it’s got to be OEM (orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­turer) strictly,” said Phil Gilling­ham, di­rec­tor at Ball Body Shop in Mid­dle­ton, a divi­sion of Smart Mo­tors.

While higher-tech equip­ment has been avail­able on lux­ury cars for a while, more reg­u­lar cars now fea­ture it.

“It’s only the past two or three years that more safety tech­nol­ogy is stan­dard equip­ment,” Gilling­ham said.

AAA’s re­search, which is na­tional, il­lus­trated some of the costs — be­yond the nor­mal body work — that tech­nol­ogy dam­age can add to auto col­li­sion re­pairs:

❚ Front radar sen­sors used with au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing and adap­tive cruise con­trol sys­tems: $900 to $1,300.

❚ Rear radar sen­sors used with blind spot mon­i­tor­ing and rear cross traf­fic alert sys­tems: $850 to $2,050

❚ Front cam­era sen­sors used with au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing, adap­tive cruise con­trol, lane de­par­ture warn­ing and lane keep­ing sys­tems (not in­clud­ing the cost of a re­place­ment wind­shield): $850 to $1,900

❚ Front, side mir­ror or rear cam­era sen­sors used with around-view sys­tems: $500 to $1,100

❚ Front or rear ul­tra­sonic sen­sors used with park­ing as­sist sys­tems: $500 to $1,300.

Even the hum­ble head­light has, in some cases, be­come very ex­pen­sive to re­pair, said Todd Gil­lette, owner of Gil­lette’s Col­li­sion Cen­ter in Wauke­sha.

“Some self-lev­el­ing head­lights can be $1,500 re­ally eas­ily,” Gil­lette said.

Crashes year-round more com­mon

Jim Fleury, owner of Fleury’s Body Re­pair in Muk­won­ago, said while the typ­i­cal peak sea­son for deer-car hits is now, there are more through­out the year than in the past. He’s been in the auto body busi­ness for more than 40 years.

“I don’t re­mem­ber years ago see­ing them so much all year long,” Fleury said. “It was al­ways in the fall. But now it seems we’re see­ing more deer hits all the time.”

A deer-car col­li­sion of­ten will dam­age fend­ers, head­lights, hoods, bumper cov­ers and even the re­in­force­ment ar­eas of those parts, de­pend­ing on the speed of the ve­hi­cle and the size of the an­i­mal, Fleury said.

It’s not un­usual for a deer that has been struck to bounce along the side of a ve­hi­cle, pep­per­ing it with dents in ad­di­tion to dam­ag­ing it at the ini­tial point of con­tact, he said.

“They can to­tal cars out eas­ily if they are go­ing fast enough and it’s a big enough deer,” Fleury said.

‘I never saw it...’

For all the so­phis­ti­cated safety equip­ment on ve­hi­cles th­ese days, there isn’t a lot that can prevent deer crashes.

Some higher-end ve­hi­cles with big price tags have sen­sors that can de­tect heat that would let a driver know a crit­ter or a pedes­trian is up ahead, Gil­lette said.

But that is only a small por­tion of the ve­hi­cles on the road.

For most mo­torists, avoid­ing deer is a de­cid­edly low tech process.

Slow­ing down and keep­ing your eyes on the road — es­pe­cially dur­ing the early morn­ing, late af­ter­noon and at night — are among the best de­fense mo­torists have in avoid­ing a deer crash.

“We are hav­ing at least one ve­hi­cle vs. deer crash a night,” cur­rently, Chief Peter Hoell of the Ger­man­town Po­lice De­part­ment said in an email.

Even when you have your eyes fo­cused squarely on the road, deer of­ten

Cars are in­creas­ingly likely to have safety tech­nol­ogy that helps re­duce death or in­jury for hu­mans. But all that tech­nol­ogy also makes re­pair­ing deer col­li­sions more com­pli­cated and costly.

ap­pear seem­ingly out of nowhere.

“I re­mem­ber one night work­ing third shift and a deer ran into the side of my squad,” Hoell said. “I never saw it come out (onto the road). I re­mem­ber it hit so hard, and made such a loud bang, I darn near jumped out of my uni­form.

“Some­times the speed at which they are run­ning makes them hard to see cross a road be­fore it is too late,” Hoell added.

Deer can run about 30 mph.

No one is im­mune, in­clud­ing the folks who re­pair deer crash dam­age.

“There was a 6-pointer that even ran out in front of me last night,” Gil­lette said.

MICHAEL SEARS / MIL­WAU­KEE JOUR­NAL SEN­TINEL

Todd Gil­lette, owner of Gil­lette’s Col­li­sion Cen­ter in Wauke­sha, works on a re­pair es­ti­mate for a 2008 Chevy Tahoe. The SUV re­cently col­lided with a a white-tailed buck. The SUV's owner, Ryan Hunk­ins of Muk­won­ago, said his wife was driv­ing when the buck jumped over a me­dian bar­rier on I-43 and was struck by the SUV in midair.

PAUL A. SMITH / MIL­WAU­KEE JOUR­NAL SEN­TINEL

Two white-tailed deer feed at the edge of awoods in south­east­ernWis­con­sin.

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