Oct. 26--You're cruising along the seemingly empty road at night when off to the side they appear: Little more than circular glints of light.
You get closer and the lights dart directly into your path. Your headlights illuminate a deer -- majestic in nature, a nightmare on the road.
Your heart pounds; you have milliseconds to react.
Fortunately, you are able to safely steer away and avoid a collision.
Most any driver has a story to share about a close call.
This year, State Farm calculates one in 162 drivers won't be as lucky. The insurance company analyzed claims and Federal Highway Administration statistics to determine the possibility of having a deer-related crash this year in Illinois is higher than last year.
The cost of the 1.23 million accidents expected nationwide will be millions of dollars in damage -- $3,305 on average -- and millions of injuries, some fatal.
In Illinois this year, the deer herd is estimated between 700,000 and 750,000. Although deer management has helped limit the number of animals, and therefore accidents, signs indicate the population is on the rise again. The number of accidents involving the animals were up about 7.7 percent last year -- even as standard auto accident claims have declined by about 8.5 percent.
This is one of two times each year deer are highly mobile. The winter reproduction season started in October, reaches its peak in November and then starts to subside in December. It's during this time deer are more likely to be found around traffic and that accidents are more likely to happen. Eighteen percent of deer-vehicle accidents are expected to occur next month.
The deer can't help it, being subject to the call of nature. That's why drivers need to be on the alert for themselves and for other drivers.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, drivers should be most alert from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., when deer are most active. Remember that deer usually travel in herds, so there is likely to be more than just the one seen nearby.
Use high beams as frequently as possible to illuminate the path and don't place your luck in things like car-mounted whistles or other "guaranteed" deer safeguards.
Instead, sharpen your defensive driving techniques and be vigilante.
(c)2012 The Telegraph (Alton, Ill.)
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