Mating season means more deer in the headlights, officials warn

Deer caused more than 16,000 crashes statewide last year.

SHARE Mating season means more deer in the headlights, officials warn
“Deer” by artist Tony Tasset, pictured along the Chicago Riverwalk in June 2017.

“Deer” sculpture by artist Tony Tasset, pictured along the Chicago Riverwalk in June 2017.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

Love can leave you feeling like you got hit by a truck. The same goes for deer.

Fall colors and Halloween decorations are accompanied by deer mating season in Illinois, giving drivers across the state one more thing to worry about — as if a deadly pandemic, a bitter election season and sporadic civil unrest weren’t enough.

With the risk of deer-vehicle collisions at its highest from October through December, transportation officials on Wednesday urged motorists to keep an eye out for the lovesick beasts entering the roadway.

During this peak season, deer are most active at dawn and dusk. And as in human matters of the heart, when it comes to approaching deer, officials say it’s best to just go with it.

“We ask all drivers to keep a watchful eye and remember the cardinal rule: don’t veer for deer,” acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said in a statement. “While the urge to swerve is instinctual, it could cause you to lose control of your vehicle or drive into oncoming traffic, increasing the severity of a crash.”

Instead, “if a collision is inevitable, try to glance your vehicle off the deer and avoid swerving into opposite lanes of traffic,” officials said.

Officials recommend scanning the sides of the road for “eye shine” reflecting off any potential deer in the headlights. And if one deer is spotted, slow down; they travel in groups, kind of like young people hitting the clubs.

Most of the collisions happen in rural areas, but “deer populations are common in both rural and urban areas which means deer-vehicle collisions can happen anywhere,” said Colleen Callahan, director of the state Department of Natural Resources.

More than 16,000 Illinois crashes last year involved deer, including 472 in Cook County. Statewide, 604 people were injured in those crashes, four of which proved fatal.

If you hit a deer, officials recommend staying in your vehicle, turning on your hazard lights and calling 911 to report the collision.

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