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Fatal crashes involving deer on record pace

Fatal deer-motorcycle crashes are on pace for a record year in Minnesota.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, 7,484 deer-vehicle crashes were reported over the last three years. Of the 16 fatalities 15 were motorcyclists.

Those crashes resulted in 69 serious injuries and 67 were sustained by motorcyclists.

So far this year, according to a department press release, seven riders have been killed in deer-motorcycle crashes. The 2013 number ties the record of seven deer-motorcycle crashes in a single year in 2008.

From 2002 to 2012, 48 riders were killed in deer-motorcycle crashes, which is nearly five-times more than the number of deaths recorded from 1991 to 2001.

“Deer are not an uncommon sight along our roads, and they tend to do unpredictable things, like stop in the middle of the road, or cross and quickly re-cross,” says Lt. Eric Roeske, Minnesota State Patrol. “Motorists and riders need to stay focused on the task at hand, and drive or ride defensively by looking for reflecting deer eyes and silhouettes, especially during low-light times, and in forested and farm areas.”

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reports that nearly one-third of deer-vehicle collisions occur early October through November.

Since Sept. 1 there have been three vehicle crashes involving deer in Goodhue County, according to the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office.

The 2012 Goodhue County total for deer-vehicle traffic crashes was 52. Of those 52 crashes reported, seven of them resulted in injury and the remaining 45 were property damage only. None of the crashes resulted in fatalities.

Be Safe

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety’s deer-vehicle safety tips

•Drive at safe speeds and always be buckled up.

•Be especially cautious from 6 to 9 p.m., when deer are most active.

•Use high beams as much as possible at night, especially in deer-active areas.

•Motorists: don’t swerve to avoid a deer. Swerving can cause motorists to lose control and travel off the road or into oncoming traffic.

•Motorcyclists: Avoid night and low-light riding periods. A rider’s best response when encountering a deer is to use both brakes for maximum braking and then drive carefully around the animal at low speed if there is space. If a crash is imminent, keep eyes and head up to improve chances of keeping the bike up. Riders are encouraged to wear helmets and other high-visibility protective gear to prevent injury or death in a crash.

•Don’t count on deer whistles or deer fences to deter deer from crossing roads.

•Watch for the reflection of deer eyes and for deer silhouettes on the shoulder of the road. If anything looks slightly suspicious, slow down.

•Slow down in areas known to have a large deer population — such as areas where roads divide agricultural fields from forest land; and whenever in forested areas between dusk and dawn.

•Deer do unpredictable things — they stop in the middle of the road when crossing; cross and quickly re-cross back; and move toward an approaching vehicle. Blow horn to urge deer to leave the road. Stop if the deer stays on the road, don’t try to go around it.

•Any Minnesota resident may claim a road-killed animal by contacting a law enforcement officer. An authorization permit will be issued allowing the individual to lawfully possess the deer.

•If a deer is struck but not killed by a vehicle, keep a distance as deer may recover and move on. If a deer does not move on, or poses a public safety risk, report the incident to a DNR conservation officer or other local law enforcement agency.

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett


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