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Deer collision crusader hits deer

March 14, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - A local lawmaker who's crusading against deer accidents testified Tuesday he hit one of the animals earlier this month.

Del. Joseph R. Bartlett, R-Frederick/Washington, said a deer ran in front of his car March 4, while he and his fiancé were driving near Buckeystown, Md. The deer ran away and damage to his car was minimal.

"I consider us all very lucky," he told the House Environmental Matters Committee.

Bartlett wants the state to study using roadside light reflectors to prevent deer accidents. The reflectors bounce a car's headlights into the woods, ideally freezing the deer before it jumps in front of the car.

Bartlett has proposed a task force to organize the study.

The Maryland Department of Environment is questioning the need for legislation.

Bartlett said while he prefers to have the Maryland General Assembly oversee the effort, his primary goal is to raise awareness.

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"I want to make sure I have some kind of realization that this is a real problem and this is on the forefront of their list of priorities," he said after the hearing.

The Maryland Department of Legislative Services estimates the study would cost $100,000.

Bartlett said he thinks it could be done for less, but that it would be money well spent.

"We're going to save lives and we're going to save money in the end," he said.

In 1998, 200 deer collisions were reported in Washington County and 188 were reported in Frederick County, Md., according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The average accident results in $2,000 in property damage. That adds up to between $6 million and $9.7 million statewide each year, Bartlett said.

In a Minnesota test, the reflector system reduced deer accidents by 80 percent, Bartlett said.

The Maryland State Highway System said, however, its test of the reflectors three years ago was inconclusive.

The reflectors were hard to maintain and got in the way of summer mowing.

Highway officials said a 35 percent drop in deer accidents might have been caused by a shift in the deer population.

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