Now that Iowa farmers are moving into their fields for the fall harvest, motorists can expect to see more deer running across roadways. Tom Welch, with the Iowa Department of Transportation, says fatalities from motor vehicle/deer collisions increased rather dramatically last year.
He says there were 12 motorist deaths from crashes with deer in 2007, up from the five year average of 5 to 6 fatalities. More than 460 motorists were injured after coming in contact with a deer. Welch says most deer crash injuries and deaths happen when the driver attempts to avoid hitting the animal.
"For a motorist of a car, the key there is don’t veer for deer," Welch said. "The worst thing you can do is to avoid it and run off the road." Out of the 12 fatalities last year, 10 involved motorcycles hitting a deer. Welch says motorcylists should slow down when they see deer warning signs and consider laying the bike down if they’re about to hit an animal and there are no other vehicles in sight.
"Most motorcyclists, when they don’t have that much time, will just lay the motorcycle down on a low volume county road," Welch said. "On a higher volume road, with a car behind you, that’s not a good option. There’s not a lot of good options when (a motorcyclist) encounters a deer." Motorists can expect to see deer running out of recently harvested cornfields, waterways or wooded areas.
However, Welch says there’s really no safe area from deer at this time of year. "Generally, in Iowa, with our flat ground – it’s pretty random where (deer) come across," Welch said. "You have to be driving sensibly all the time in Iowa." So far this year, there have been at least five fatalities in Iowa from motor vehicle collisions with deer. All five of the crashes involved motorcycles.