The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported that Minnesota firearms deer hunters registered 70,724 deer during the first two days of deer season this year.
Judging by the flood of reports I have read, I suspect drivers took out almost as many.
Deer have a reputation for being wily and elusive, but apparently, asphalt renders them nearly defenseless, so it’s easier to bag a buck when armed with a Honda on the highway than with a Winchester in the woods.
Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the state likely knows this time of year is prime deer season on Minnesota roads.
I get reports from all the local law enforcement agencies, and, based on the number of incidents involving motor vehicles and deer trying to occupy the same space at the same time, I’m starting to wonder if motorists would be better off driving through the woods and letting the deer have the roads at least until the creatures settle down in December.
In the period from 2013 to 2015, there were 6,149 reported car-deer crashes in Minnesota, according to the Department of Public Safety.
These resulted in 15 fatalities and 944 injuries to drivers or passengers.
Nationwide, the National Highway Safety Administration (NHSA) estimates there are about 1.5 million deer-related auto crashes each year.
The worst times are October and November, when deer have their minds on romance. MnDOT does not provide any data regarding when motorists are most distracted by romance.
May and June are also dangerous times, due to a lot of deer being born as a result of the party months of October and November.
Many crashes occur at dawn and dusk, when low light reduces visibility and deer tend to be most active.
MnDOT recommends that motorists avoid distractions and pay attention to their driving, which seems like excellent advice at any time of the year.
MnDOT also advises motorists not to swerve to avoid a deer.
It’s safer to hit a deer than to hit another vehicle or an obstacle such as a tree. If faced with a collision with a deer, motorists are advised to stay in their lane, brake firmly, and hold onto the steering wheel rather than shaking their fists at the offending animal or making rude gestures.
Deer, like women heading to a public restroom, often travel in herds, so if a motorist observes one, he’d be wise to be on the lookout for more that may be following.
In addition to the peril of personal injury or death, and the inconvenience of damage to their automobiles, conflicts with deer pose the potential of financial misfortune to motorists.
According to the Minnesota Commerce Department, damage to a vehicle resulting from a collision with an animal is covered under an auto policy’s optional comprehensive coverage.
If motorists only have collision coverage or liability coverage, insurance carriers will not cover damage to vehicles caused by collisions with animals, according to the commerce department.
The NHSA estimates damage caused by deer crashes results in more than $1 billion in insured losses annually.
Drivers may wish to consult their insurance agent to find out if they are covered before tangling with a deer on the road, or they could be in for two nasty surprises in one day.
The potential for conflict with deer is a fact of life on Minnesota roads in November, but staying alert and taking precautions may help drivers avoid unwanted meetings with Bambi and his brothers.