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Motorists are warned to watch for deer

October 30, 2006|By KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Motorists should be on the lookout for deer as the weather turns cold and the animals' thoughts turn to mating, officials said.

"They have one thing on the mind, and it is not oncoming traffic," Washington County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Daniel Faith said Sunday.

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, about 1.5 million crashes involving deer occur every year. About 155 people die in those accidents.

Last year, deer were involved in 2,341 crashes in Pennsylvania that killed nine people. In 2003, deer were involved in 3,849 crashes in Maryland.

Deer are involved in more than three-quarters of the fatal accidents involving animals, AAA Mid-Atlantic said.

"You want to drive slow, and if you need to veer, veer toward the shoulder. Look ahead, look ahead," Faith said.

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Collisions between deer and vehicles especially are common during crisp, clear nights in the fall, Faith said.

Many of the accidents involving serious injuries happen when motorists lose control of their vehicles or drive into oncoming traffic to avoid hitting the animals, Faith said.

Drivers should watch for the red reflections of deer's eyes in the dark, and they should be prepared to stop, Maryland State Police Sgt. Robert Reid said.

"And, I don't just mean take your foot off the gas. They should slow down significantly," Reid said.

Reid said he is surprised by drivers who speed through areas notorious for deer. South Mountain, Md. 65, Md. 34 and Md. 56 near Fort Frederick State Park are among some of the places where Reid said people should be on alert.

Faith said he believes deer accidents can happen anywhere. About three or four years ago, he said, a deputy suffered minor injuries when a deer sprinted through the parking lot of the Sheetz at Huyetts Crossroads before jumping through the windshield of the officer's patrol car.

Deer whistles on the hoods of vehicles can emit noise that Faith said will make deer stand still, and he said he believes the devices work. If a motorist hits a deer, Faith said that he or she should contact police so they can file a report and put down the animal, if necessary.

The Sheriff's Department does not issue citations to drivers because they hit deer, he said.

Where there is one deer, there often are more, running just a bit behind, both Reid and Faith said. This time of year, motorists should be at the ready.

"If you see a doe bolt across the road, she is going to have something chasing her, and he's not going to stop," Faith said.

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