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Sheriff's Corner: Vehicle vs. deer collisions

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If you travel in or around northern Minnesota, more than likely you have been involved in a vehicle vs. deer collision, or you know someone who has.

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If you haven’t, maybe you have read our weekly media blotter and notice that car vs. deer collisions have been higher than normal the past few months. We have noticed a significant increase in vehicle vs. deer collisions resulting in crashes with injuries as well as crashes involving significant property damage.

The most common and dangerous animal to encounter on roadways in Minnesota are deer, and the deadliest time of year is late summer and fall. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are about 1.5 million car accidents with deer each year that kill 200 Americans, cause more than 10,000 personal injuries, and result in $1 billion in vehicle damage.

We found that the average collision with a deer produces more than $3,000 worth of damages. In 2012, the Cass County Sheriff’s Office responded to 193 incidents involving deer vs. vehicle collisions and so far in 2013 we have responded to 86 incidents. Statewide there are approximately 90,000 incidents per year involving deer and motor vehicles.

Don’t swerve

The leading cause of accidents, injuries and deaths from deer-related accidents is when vehicles swerve in an attempt to avoid hitting a deer. Swerving can result in vehicles moving into oncoming traffic, crashing into trees and other objects or even rolling over.

While it may be against a driver’s first instinct, the safest thing to do is slow down as much as possible and let your vehicle strike the deer. Instincts tell us to avoid an obstruction in the road, but if you can train yourself not to swerve to avoid deer in the road you will keep yourself, your passengers and other drivers much safer.

Deer crossing signs are there for a reason

A few years ago, the state of Minnesota stopped installing deer crossing signs on roadways. However, there are still some signs out there. Cass County does not install deer crossing signs. Pay attention to posted deer crossing signs. These signs are placed in areas known for high deer traffic. It is important to note that even if there is no posted deer crossing sign, it is important to remain vigilant as deer may appear anywhere.

Know how deer travel

While deer can be active any time of the day, the majority of deer-related car accidents occur starting at dusk and during the evening. It is important to pay special attention at all times for deer. It is also important to always be aware that deer mostly move in groups and that when you spot one deer, it is likely that there are always more nearby.

Use high beams when possible

High beams should be used at night as much as possible to spot deer in the road ahead or deer that may along the side of the road. Make sure to use your high beams only when no other oncoming traffic is visible and make sure to turn them off if a vehicle approaches.

What to do in the event of a crash

If you do have a collision with a deer and there are no injuries to any people in your vehicle, you can call the sheriff’s office non-emergency number or 911 and report the incident. If you are on a state highway, you may be transferred to a State Patrol dispatch center. You will be asked a few questions, including which roadway you are on, approximate location, license plate and driver information for the vehicle, insurance information and where the damage occurred.

If the damage can be approximated at less than $1,000, a state accident report does not need to be completed. If damages exceed $1,000 or there is any personal injury, a State Accident Report must be completed. You will also be asked if the deer is off the roadway and the roadway is clear of any debris or vehicle pieces.

In several instances, people wait to report the incident until they get home. This is fine; however, we need to make sure that the roadway is clear. Dispatch will generate a Case Number or ICR number and when you report the incident to your insurance company they will need that number for their records. The insurance company will contact our office for a copy of the report for their file.

We all know that deer can appear suddenly and without warning, but knowing how to react and where and when they are most likely to strike can greatly reduce your chances of being involved in an accident.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: email to tom.burch@co.cass.mn.us; call 218-547-1424 or 800-450-2677; or mail/in person to the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, 303 Minnesota Ave. W., PO Box #1119, Walker, MN 56484.

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