Fall is the time of year with the highest risk for a vehicle-deer collision, with November being the riskiest month. The months with the most crash deaths coincide with fall breeding season. Fatal crashes are most likely to occur in rural areas and on roads with speed limits of 55 mph or higher, typical of the roads in Franklin County. They're also more likely to occur in darkness, at dusk, or at dawn. According to "Traffic Safety" magazine, approximately 200 people die each year from collisions with deer, and the cost to Americans is more than $1 billion dollars.
According to information obtained from the New York State Police, there were 1,829 incidents of a deer-motor vehicle collision in "Troop B" in 2010, and so far this year, there have already been 1,270 (through mid-October).
State Department of Transportation and local highway departments place deer warning signs in areas that are prone to deer collisions, but a deer can run into the road any time anywhere.
Why is it that some motorists drive thousands of miles in "deer country" and never have a problem and other drivers seem to hit a deer almost annually? Most likely, some motorists are paying closer attention to their driving than others, and likely are aware of the following tips from the National Safety Council aimed at reducing deer-vehicle collisions:
Slow down and prepare to stop as soon as you see a deer. Stopping is safer than taking evasive action. And, slow down if other cars are behaving differently.
If you spot a deer, watch for others - deer frequently travel in groups.
Deer are nocturnal and often travel from dusk to dawn. Many deer-vehicle crashes occur between 6 p.m. and midnight.
Watch for reflections from the deer's eyes from your headlights - this gives you more reaction time.
Use your high beams when there is no traffic approaching. You should never overdrive your headlights. That is, you should be able to stop when your headlights show an obstruction in the roadway before hitting it. If you drive with low beams, your sight distance is much reduced, and if you don't drive much slower, which most of us don't do, you will overdrive your lights, a very dangerous practice.
If you see a deer along the side of the road, assume it will run into your path, and slow down accordingly.
Do not swerve into another lane, or head off the road to avoid hitting a deer. It is better to strike a deer than to hit another vehicle or a fixed object.
Wear your seat belt, everyone in the vehicle. An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found that 60 percent of the people who were killed while riding in vehicles weren't using safety belts, and 65 % of those killed on motorcycles weren't wearing helmets.
If you hit a deer, call 911 and wait for law enforcement. If there's no cell-phone service, it's permissible to leave the scene to call police, then return.
If you practice the above safety tips, you will be a much safer driver in deer country.
For more articles on vehicle and traffic law and traffic safety, go to the Traffic Safety Board's website under "departments" at: www.franklincony.org.