INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Picture this: A motorists is driving down the highway at night and then sees the gleam of an eye as something large runs straight into the car’s path.
The motorist only has a moment to decide what to do before colliding with a deer. That happened thousands of times across the state in 2018, and police expect to see more deer-involved accidents soon.
The state Department of Natural Resources says male deer are wandering around looking for a mate now through January and generally not paying attention to much else.
Indiana saw 15,270 collisions in 2018 with white-tailed deer causing around $66.7 million worth of damages to vehicles, according to a Natural Resources report.
“You know, it’s the same story every single year,” Indiana State Police Sgt. John Perrine said. Between September and January, peaking in November, “we get in this time of year where the deer start moving and we see a significant increase in car-deer crashes.”
Motorist Tarron Barnes said, “It’s not really the highway, it’s just their area. I don’t think it has to do with, they’re not thinking about that being a highway. They’re just going where they’re going.”
Police suggested motorists who encounter deer not try and swerve out of the way. Instead, throw on the breaks, stay in your lane and try to come to a stop or cause minimal damage.
“If you’re able to get to a slow enough speed to maneuver around the deer safely, then that’s an option,” Perrine said. “However, the best thing you can do is stay in your lane, hit your breaks and hopefully all you do is hit the deer.”
That may sound a little cruel, but police say they see the worst accidents — some even fatal — when people try to spare the animal.
“Most of the time then we see serious crashes, it’s because the vehicle swerved off the road and hit something else or another vehicle,” Perrine said.
Deer are going to be the most active at dusk and dawn, but that doesn’t mean that’s the only time you need to pay attention.
Police also remind motorists that if you see one deer, there’s probably more around.