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Deer-auto collisions on rise in autumn

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fall can mean a lot of things; the crunch of leaves upon the ground, cooler weather jackets and deer darting past a car as the driver swerves to avoid them.

Sandi Rossok, the owner of Rossok and Company Insurance, said she's seeing a deer-related vehicle claim around once every five days. She said considering she works in a rural community and has a smaller company, that's a lot of collisions.

"We've had several (claims) and we've had several near misses," Rossok said. "The mistake people make is they avoid the deer and go to the ditch, then it becomes an ordinary claim, a collision.

"We've had two cars totaled this month," she said.

Mitch Strobl, a DePauw University biology student and a writer for Huntinglife.com, said one of the reasons deer accidents are so prevalent right now is because the deer are in their mating season, which is called the rut.

"The reason you see so many deer hit on the road is that it's just a time of activity -- they have to mate right now," Strobl said. "Bucks are going crazy -- their testosterone levels are through the roof.

"They don't think about eating or sleeping. They think about mating before anything," Strobl said. "That's why you see so many deer on the road."

Strobl said the rut, which is brought on by a doe's estrus or reproductive cycle, can be affected by a variety of things, such as the amount of daylight, the weather, the moon cycles and other factors.

Strobl said he thought the amount of daylight is the single biggest cause of the rut beginning.

"Basically the estrus cycle has recurring physiologic changes that are the result of reproductive hormones," Strobl said. "They're in heat right now."

This only happens a couple of weeks during the year," he said.

Late autumn is among one the worst times for deer accidents, but those accidents have been on the rise overall in recent years. State Farm released a report last month that said deer accidents are 21 percent more likely to occur now than five years ago. The same study reported that the odds of hitting a deer are 1 in 160 in Indiana. The average property damage of hitting a deer is just over $3,100.

Rossok said she thinks this year has seemed more active in terms of deer accidents.

"I feel like this year has been really heavy (for deer accidents)," Strobl said. "The number of deer I've personally seen this year has been more. We're overpopulated."

Strobl said during the rut, deer will often cross a street one after another. That can lead to an accident, as people avoid the first deer, but hit the second.

"The bucks are out looking for the scent that's going to lead them to a breedable doe," Strobl said. "Once they find that doe, if she's not ready at that point, she's going to run away, he's going to chase her and they're just going to run. That's why you see them crossing the roads and getting hit."

Rossok said she thought part of the reason for increased car and deer accidents might be the recent time change.

"With the time changes we're traveling when they travel. It's early dawn or dusk. That's when they travel," Rossok said.

Rossok said when she's driving, she tries to be aware of what is happening off to her sides by using both her peripheral vision and her lights.

"I use my brights during dawn and dusk because you're not going to see this gray or light brown animal that is moving by the side of the road as easily if you don't have your brights on and aren't looking for it," Rossok said.

Rossok said the number of deer accidents have had an affect on how expensive insurance can be, specifically comprehensive insurance, which would pay for a deer collision.

"It used to be that comprehensive was a pretty cheap coverage on your policy and it's not that cheap anymore," she said.

"Comprehensive is usually considered a cheaper part of your policy because it doesn't happen as much as hitting another car. Out in this area you're probably going to hit a deer before you're going to hit another car," she said.

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this is nothing new, it happens every year at this time. If people would slow the hell down, I think you would see fewer accidents. But, instead they want to get those last 10 minutes of sleep and hurry to work or school.

-- Posted by tbone46135 on Tue, Nov 23, 2010, at 9:16 AM

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