New York Experiencing a Record Year for Deer-Related Car Crashes
New York drivers are being warned to keep their eyes on the road following a historic surge in deer-related accidents.
This morning on my ride to work, I saw school bus in Whitesboro almost hit three deer that charged across the road near the Hart's Hill Inn. Luckily, the bus driver saw the movement and slowed down - but I was amazed by how hard it was to see the deer.
The animals blended right in with their surroundings. Had the bus not had its lights on, they would have been nearly invisible.
However, this brings me back to my freshman year of high school when a deer charged right in front of our school bus. Unfortunately, our school bus driver, Spencer, didn't have enough time to react and hit the deer head on even though he was already slowing down for a stop sign.
To make the accident even worse, a car that was following too closely behind us slammed into the back of the bus and several classmates were injured by the whiplash.
I share this story because that accident happened when the sun was already up while the incident this morning in Whitesboro happened right before dawn, when visibility was very low.
The street was dark and that made the deer extremely difficult to see. Had the bus driver not been paying attention, there would have been an accident.
Record Number of Accidents This Year
Roughly 40,000 crashes caused by deer happen every year in the Empire State, which is equivalent to one animal-related crash every 16 minutes. Unfortunately for us, we're right in the middle of the season where drivers are most likely to get hurt.
It is currently the deer mating season, also known as rut, which runs from late September into the winter months.
Because deer are being ruled by their hormones, they are more likely to bolt in front of moving cars. It also doesn't help that they're growing in their darker winter coats and fawns are losing their spots, which makes them even harder to see in the dark.
AAA Northeast is warning drivers that New York is experiencing a sharp rise in deer-related car collisions this year.
So far in 2023, there has been 36,743 crashes caused by "animal action." That's over 2,500 more than the number of incidents reported in 2021.
This also ties the record number of deer-related crashes that was set in 2018.
According to data from Traffic Safety Management and Research, roughly 1,675 drivers were injured in these incidents so far this year. Two people have died.
Because of this alarming trend, drivers are strongly encouraged to be aware of the road ahead of them - especially around dawn and dusk.
Staying Safe on the Roads
Deer tend to throw caution to the wind during rut, and will be less cautious as they search for a mate. That is why these creatures will literally run in front of a car.
The worst time of day for such accidents is during the two hours before sunrise and after sunset.
The best way to protect yourself is by scanning the roads as you drive and keeping your speed low. That mitigates the likelihood of you needing to slam on your brakes - or worse.
New York's Department of Transportation strongly advises motorists to be aware that deer normally travel in groups, so if you see one on the road, it's best to slow down to make sure it's not being followed by friends.
Motorcyclists are especially advised to be on alert since motorcycle-deer collisions have an even higher fatality rate.
NYSDOT released its annual list of habits all drivers should adopt during this time of year:
Briefly use flashers or a headlight signal to warn approaching drivers when deer or moose are spotted in or near the highway;
Be especially alert and use caution when traveling through frequent deer or moose crossing areas, which are usually marked with “leaping stag” or moose signs;
Do not rely on devices, such as deer whistles, extra lights or reflectors, to deter deer. Research has shown that your best defense is your own responsible behavior.
If a deer does run in front of your vehicle, brake firmly but do not swerve. Swerving can cause a vehicle-vehicle collision or cause the vehicle to strike a pedestrian or potentially deadly fixed object, such as a tree or utility pole.
But wait, there's more to worry about than deer!
Did you know we also have to be aware of moose crossings?
There's also a growing number of moose in the state and more are wandering out in front of vehicles.
The problem with moose is that they are much larger and darker than deer, making them even harder to see at night.
Their coloring and tall stature helps them to almost blend into the darkness, especially since their heads can be higher than your vehicle's headlights.
That's why NY officials strongly encourage residents to always drive with their high-beams on, since you are way more likely to see a moose on the road.
That's not all, moose-car collisions tend to be more dangerous. Since these creatures can grow up to 6 feet, 6 inches at the shoulder, the impact from a car would typically involve their legs - thus causing their body and head to hit the car's windshield and roof.
That said, it's always encouraged to slow down while driving and keep your eyes peeled on the road. You never know what what might run across it and ruin your day.
Deer are a year-round problem on the roads
Just because this is the worst season for deer strikes, that doesn't mean these critters stay off the roads during the other months.
In August, a woman was sent to the hospital after a deer ran out in front of her car onto Route 49 in Rome.
The Oneida County Sheriff's Office reports:
Upon arrival, deputies determined Janeishca Delgado-Ayala (26), of Rome, was driving a 2013 Nissan, westbound on Route 49 when she swerved to avoid a deer in the roadway and crashed in the center median area. Delgado-Ayala was transported to Rome Memorial Hospital to be evaluated for non-life threatening injuries.
The accident came as residents noted deer activity was rapidly increasing in the area. Some described the activity as odd - and now we have the statistical data proving that this is not a coincidence.
There are way more deer on the road and they're causing a lot of damage.
According to state wildlife officials, the deer population is exploding. The most current estimate believes we have nearly a million deer in the Empire State, with officials putting their population at around 900,000.
So, with close to a million deer ready to spring across the roads - it's best to buckle up, slow down, and don't become a statistic.
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Gallery Credit: Brett Alan