Stay clear, but don’t veer from deer

The Enterprise - - Community Forum -

Af­ter din­ing to con­tent­ment and head­ing to your car as you leave a friend’s or rel­a­tive’s home dur­ing the hol­i­days, you’ll prob­a­bly hear the fa­mil­iar warn­ing: “Watch out for deer.”

It may be as ca­sual and com­mon­place as “good­bye” af­ter dark this time of year, but that word of cau­tion is not for noth­ing. We’re just com­ing out of “the rut,” or what is known as peak deer breed­ing sea­son, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease from AAA Mid-At­lantic ask­ing driv­ers to be cau­tious.

Of course, all those lovesick 10-point bucks out there didn’t get that memo, any more than they cross the road only where the yel­low signs in­di­cate it’s a pos­si­bil­ity. Deer won’t now stop at­tempt­ing to breed and just dis­ap­pear un­til next year. Far from it, in fact.

Although most deer-ve­hi­cle col­li­sions oc­cur be­tween those dates lo­cally, AAA re­ports the fi­nal phase of deer mat­ing sea­son ends around Dec. 9, which means there are still likely to be deer roam­ing on our lo­cal road­ways, par­tic­u­larly in the most ru­ral ar­eas. “Most an­i­mal-ve­hi­cle col­li­sions oc­cur on two-lane roads bor­dered by nat­u­ral habi­tat,” Rag­ina Cooper Averella, govern­ment and pub­lic af­fairs man­ager for AAA Mid-At­lantic, said in the re­lease.

And any­one from South­ern Mary­land knows we have no short­age of roads fit­ting that de­scrip­tion here. The Mary­land Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources’ 2017-2018 An­nual Deer Re­port re­ports 11,168 deer were killed by ve­hi­cles across the state in 2017. Of that num­ber, 125 were struck and killed in St. Mary’s. Our neigh­bors had con­sid­er­ably higher num­bers — 250 in Calvert, 229 in Charles — so travel through­out the tri-county area is worth be­ing cau­tious.

And the deer aren’t the only ones harmed dur­ing these in­ci­dents. Of­ten, these crashes can cause in­juries to driv­ers and pas­sen­gers, and some­times can be fa­tal.

With that in mind, AAA of­fers the fol­low­ing tips to help driv­ers avoid po­ten­tially deadly and costly ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing deer and other an­i­mals who don’t abide by any man­made rules of the road:

Scan the road and shoul­ders ahead to give your­self enough re­ac­tion time if an an­i­mal is spot­ted. If you see a deer, know they rarely travel solo, so be on guard for more that may be in the area.

The times to be most cau­tious are at dawn and dusk, as deer tend to be more ac­tive early in the morn­ing, but can also be spot­ted as late as mid­night. Use high-beam head­lights if there’s no on­com­ing traf­fic and it is darker out. You’ll spot any wildlife in the road ear­lier that way, giv­ing you more time to slow down, move over or honk to frighten the an­i­mal away. High beams can also be help­ful in spot­ting an­i­mals’ re­flec­tive eyes.

Drive slower and use more cau­tion in ar­eas known to have a more ac­tive wildlife pop­u­la­tion. Also be vig­i­lant on roads that di­vide farm from for­est land.

If a deer does dart out in front of your ve­hi­cle, don’t swerve. Many se­ri­ous crashes hap­pen be­cause the driver swerved to avoid hit­ting an an­i­mal and hit an­other ve­hi­cle in­stead, or lost con­trol, the re­lease states.

If a col­li­sion is un­avoid­able, just step firmly on the brakes, try to re­main in your lane and hope for the best. And if you do hap­pen to hit a deer, don’t try to move it. Call law en­force­ment or an­i­mal con­trol for as­sis­tance.

Fi­nally, wear a seat belt (it’s also the law) and re­main alert and sober (again, the law).

Keep­ing these tips in mind can help re­duce your chances of an un­for­tu­nate run-in with a deer or other an­i­mal while driv­ing. With the hol­i­days hav­ing now of­fi­cially be­gun, it’s im­por­tant that we all do our part to en­sure ev­ery­one can get to where they need to be safely.

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