By Tim Kowols and Kewaunee County Sheriff Matt Joski
Wisconsin is moving up the list of the states with the most car versus deer accidents. At a rate of one out of every 72 drivers, Wisconsin ranks fifth when it comes to the likelihood a vehicle will hit a deer or another large animal while on the road according to a national insurance company deer claim study. Counties have tried to combat the problem by keeping ditch lines clear of tall plants to improve the visibility of deer for motorists. Kewaunee County Sheriff Matt Joski suggests following too closely is another cause of so many accidents involving deer.
Joski says limiting the distractions in the car while driving can also help save you some possible damage to your car.
For many, autumn is one of the best seasons we get to enjoy here in Wisconsin. The changing colors, the crisp clean air, and the preparation for the upcoming deer season. Unfortunately there are many who have contact with the elusive white tail not in the woods or from their tree stand but rather with their motor vehicle. We have seen the number of car deer accidents increase over the years, but having dug deeper into the statistics it is alarming just how much of an increase we have experienced.
Our current record management system dates back to 2000. In that year we documented 268 car deer accidents. In 2016 we had a total of 533, and these are just the accidents which were reported to us. Many times for various reasons deer are struck by motor vehicles however the drivers decide not to report these accidents and we are aware of these due to the deer carcasses which remain at the scene. Those accidents are not counted in this data.
On a good note, by last year at this time there were 350 car deer accidents while this year so far there has only been 312. Let’s all try to keep this year’s total lower than last year. We can do this in many ways.
First, let me say that I have no idea about deer populations or trends. That is information that the DNR keeps track of and while it may have some bearing on our growing number of car deer accidents, I also believe we have developed some bad habits over the past 17 years which has also led us to aid in the increase.
The biggest contributor I see is inattentive driving. Although inattentive driving has been around since the dawn of the automobile, the presence of electronic devices is something new, and with it has emerged a new method of communication, Texting. We have all heard of or may even have witnessed the dangers that texting while driving poses on our roadways and I have no doubt that there are more than a few car deer accidents which could have been avoided had the driver been paying closer attention to the road.
Distracted driving is a danger throughout the year, but if there was ever a time to put your phones away it is in these next few weeks and months. As a driver your focus needs to be on your primary mission and that is driving. Many accidents could be avoided by an increase in vigilance on the road edges and ditch lines. Most of the ditches on the Town, County and State Highways have been cleared for this very reason, providing drivers with an additional field of vision so as to prevent such tragedies.
As I stated earlier, we have seen the increase in car deer accidents. Please take your time and be watchful especially in the evening and morning hours. This includes allowing additional space between your vehicle and the vehicle traveling in front of you. Following too closely is always unsafe, but more so in this time of year when that vehicle in front of you may have to take evasive maneuvers and you are too close to effectively react.