Deer-car accidents are at their height of frequency due to rut season.
Kansas is at its yearly peek for crashes involving deer, with the third week of November being when the state historically sees the most such collisions, state officials said.
The Pratt County Sheriff’s Department has seen nine deer-car accidents since the beginning of the month, not high numbers in comparison to other years, but enough to take note that they are out there.
“This hasn’t been a deer apocalypse,” said Pratt County Sheriff Jimmy White. “Some years I remember working four and five deer wrecks a shift. This year hasn’t been like that, but we have had some activity.”
According to White, parts of the county travelers should be especially on the lookout for deer crossing roadways include North 281 highway and SE 90th. Several deer-car wrecks have already occurred in those areas.
“We haven’t had any fatalities this year, but drivers should definitely be alert. It’s rut season and the deer just don’t think,” White said. “From my experience, the worst time of the day is either dusk or dawn when the deer are still active but it’s hard to see because of low light.”
A crash Sunday at 5:30 p.m. in Allen County, Kansas claimed the lives of three women who were in a minivan, according to Kansas Highway Patrol Technical Trooper Stephen LaRow.
A deer that had been struck by a passing car went airborne and crashed through the wind- shield of the minivan passing in the opposite direction on US- 169 highway, about 4 miles south of Iola.
LaRow said the deer entered the front windshield and almost made it out of the back window of the minivan. The minivan came to rest facing south in the southbound ditch without rolling over. All three occupants were pronounced dead at the scene.
The highway patrol identified the fatality victims as Sherry Laraine Bingham, 33, of Chanute; Ciara Joan Edwards, 32, of Chanute; and Samantha Renee McMillan, 37, of Walnut. The patrol said all three were wearing their seat belts at the time of the crash.
The driver of the car that first struck the deer, Ashley Nicole Walters, 20, Warrensburg, Missouri, was not injured. She was also wearing her seat belt at the time of the crash.
Kansas Highway Patrol statistics state that in 2016, the state of Kansas recorded 10,242 deer-car, which resulted in seven people being killed and 597 injured. In 2015, there were 10,084 car verses deer crashes, which resulted in eight deaths and 531 injuries.
Deer crashes occur in nearly every part of the state. LaRow said that in 2016, Butler County recorded 583 deer-car crashes in mostly rural areas. Johnson County, a more populated area in northeastern Kansas, had 371 car verses deer crashes.
LaRow offered several safety tips for motorists if they encounter deer on or near the roadway.
"Number 1 is don't swerve to try and avoid the hit," he said. "You might go into the ditch and roll. It's better to strike the deer than risk going into the ditch and rolling. The swerving can cause the driver to lose control, overcorrecting. This is often more dangerous than just hitting the animal."
If a motorist hits a deer and their vehicle is disabled, the best thing to do is try to get off the road as far as possible, LaRow said. He advised drivers to pull off the road, then stay in their car and call law enforcement, rather than getting out of their vehicle to check on the injured animal.
He said people who get out of a vehicle and cross a roadway to check on the deer take serious risks, including being struck themselves by a passing vehicle or encountering an animal that can be extremely aggressive after being injured.
"Call and let dispatch know that there's an animal in the roadway," LaRow said. "We will get someone out there as soon as possible to drag it off."
LaRow said that is has been his experience that more often than not, a deer that has been hit by a vehicle ends up on the side of the road or in the median.
People who want to take a deer that has been hit for its meat need to contact local law enforcement, such as their county sheriff 's office, which in many cases issues tags for those wishing to pick up a freshly killed animal.
With holiday traffic predicted to be heavier than usual in the coming days and weeks, White said it was very important to stay alert to movement in the ditches.
“It’s hard to see them coming,” he said. “Don’t get in a hurry and don’t swerve to miss a deer that suddenly appears in your view. It’s the over-correction that causes most of the damage.”
White also cautioned about harvest activity because machinery in the fields often spooks up deer at this time of year more than others.