SIDNEY — ‘Tis the season … not for Christmas lights, but rather for deer/vehicle crashes.
“Lots of citizens are involved in deer/car accidents,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart during his weekly interview. “Nationally, there were 200 fatal accidents last year involving a deer.”
In OHio, said Lenhart, there were three fatal crashes in 2018.
“There are 1.6 million accidents involving deer with $3 billion in damage done,” he said.
“In 2018 in Shelby County, there were 364 crashes involving deer with five personal injuries.. So far in 2019, there have been 179 deer crashes with eight personal injuries,” he said.
Statistics show the top four states with the most deer/vehicle crashes are Pennsylvannia in first place, Michigan in second place, Illinois in third place and Ohio in fourth place.
“We’re surrounded by lots of deer,” he said. “There are an estimated 30 million deer in North America.”
Lenhart said there are three reasons for the increased deer/vehicle crashes in the fall. It’s mating season for the animals, he said.
Also, farmers are harvesting their corn and soybean crops and that’s one place deer hide/eat during the fall. Also, hunters are moving the deer around during deer hunting season.
Lenhart said property owners who allow hunters on their land should make them sign a permit allowing them to hunt.
“This relieves the property owner of responsibility if something happens,” said lenhart. “You should also ask them to hunt does to stop any offsrping from being born. I know that everyone wants a Daniel Boone buck but they should also hunt the does.”
Fifty years ago, said Lenhart, he and deputies could travel from one end of the county to the other and only see three or four deer/vehicle crashes.
“Deer like to travel in herds,” said Lenhart. “If one crosses the road, you can be sure they will be more crossing the road.
“So when traveling, make sure you travel slowly and your vehicle’s headlights are on,” he said. “The deer will come darting across the road. Dusk and dawn are the times when the deer are more active.”
Lenhart said most county residents — or those who travel the roads on a daily basis — know where the deer like to live. “Deer crossing” signs have been placed in areas where deer are known to travel.
“The headlights of your car will cause the deer’s eyes to light up brightly,” said Lenhart. “If they are looking into the light, the deer are easy to spot.”
Lenhart said if you’re traveling on a multi-lane highway, try to stay in the middle lane as that will give you more time to avoid the deer. On a ountry road — if there’s no yellow line — travel down the middle of the road when there’s no approaching traffic.
“If you see a deer, brake and don’t swerve to try to miss it,” said Lenhart. “The leading cause of injury is when you try to avoid the deer.”
Lenhart said some auto owners have a deer whistle installed on the vehicle. The whistle can cause the deer to avoid the vehicle.
“Some experts say that doesn’t work,” said Lenhart. “You can honk your horn and that may cause the deer to leave the road.”
And what should you do if you hit a deer?
“Pull over to the side of the road and put your hazard lights on,” said Lenhart. “Stay in your car until it’s safe. Stay away from the deer as it could be confused and try to charge you.
“Call the sheriff’s office,” he said, “and a deputy and rescue personnel will be dispatched to you. If there’s property damage, the deputy will do an investigation. The officer or deputy will do an accident report. They will give you a slip of possession for the deer. Then you can take the deer and do whatever you want with it.”
Lenhart said the driver should also contact their insurance company within 24 hours of the crash.
The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.