News Obits School/Sports Community Opinion

— They may look cute and appealing as they graze on the roadside, but don’t be fooled - deer can cause injury and even death for Arkansas motorists.

According to the Insurance Information Institute for Highway Safety, about 1.5 million animal-vehicle crashes occur each year, causing about $1 billion in damage. Some 150 people die and another 10,000 are injured annually in such crashes nationwide.

A new State Farm study shows that Arkansas ranks sixth in the nation in deer-vehicle collisions. The study said that for any vehicle in operation in Arkansas over a year’s time, there’s a 1-in-105.95 chance of a collision with a deer. That’s behind West Virginia (1-in-39), Michigan (1-in-78), Pennsylvania (1-in-94), Iowa (1-in-104) and Montana (1-in-104).

Becky McPeake, an associate professor of wildlife with the Arkansas Forest Resource Center at the U of A Division of Agriculture, said there are deer just about everywhere.

“Deer populate about every known location in Arkansas from rural woodlands to grasslands to urban areas,” she said. “Deer-vehicle collisions are a problem in areas where growing human populations come into contact with deer.”

With more than two million current vehicle registrations in the state and an estimated one million deer living in Arkansas, collisions are bound to happen. A study of deer-vehicle collisions in Arkansas conducted by University of Arkansas, Monticello, using data from 1998 to 2001 reports filed with the Arkansas State Police shows that fall is a peak time for collisions.

“Collisions were recorded in all months, but most occurred during October through December, with a peak occurring in November,” McPeake said. “This time period coincides with white tailed deer breeding activity in Arkansas which also peaks in November.”

Those collisions are also more likely.

“Do not swerve if a deer appears in front of your vehicle,” Mc-Peake said.

“One study has shown that most human fatalities occur when drivers lose control of their vehicle and hit a tree or other object.”to happen in the early evening or early morning hours.

“The number of collisions was greatest between 5:30 p.m. and midnight. A smaller peak occurred between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m.,” she said.

This certainly isn’t a problem that’s gone unnoticed by Arkansas’ agencies. Studies have been conducted to determine where these collisions are more likely to occur. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has determined that the highest number of collisions occur in Pulaski and Benton Counties, where 97.6 to 136.7 deer-related collisions are recorded each year. Washington, Cleburne and Faulkner Counties see from 67.6 to 97.6 deer-related crashes a year.

“One Arkansas study indicated the incidence of deer-vehicle accidents was influenced more by roadway features, level of urbanization, and human population densities more than by deer densities or landscape characteristics,” McPeake said. “However, landscape characteristics in Arkansas were useful in predicting site-specific probabilities of deer-vehicle collisions.

“Topography, or how the land is shaped, may influence where deercross roadways,” she said. “Oftentimes deer crossing signs are placed in these areas to alert drivers.”

As a driver, what can you do to keep from becoming part of those statistics? If you see a deer standing in or near the roadway, McPeake has this advice: “Take your foot off the pedal and brake slowly so as not to cause an accident with other vehicles. If you see one deer, be prepared for another deer or two crossing the roadway.

“You may want to try honking your horn or flashing your headlights, though these actions are no guarantee that an accident will be avoided,” she said

News, Pages 7 on 12/02/2009

Print Headline: Risk still high for car-deer collisions

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