Over a period of just a few hours on Thursday morning, first responders in Dawson County responded to an unusual number of wrecks on roads spread throughout the county. But one common factor strung the incidents together, each of the six wrecks involved deer running or leaping out onto the roadway.
No serious injuries were reported due to the incidents, and Dawson County Fire Chief and EMA Director Danny Thompson said on Thursday afternoon that the wrecks are a good reminder of how deer activity picks up in the fall, making wrecks with deer and injuries all the more likely.
"This is the time of the year that we begin to see it," Thompson said. "We see a lot of injuries from it."
According to a press release by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division, the reason more drivers see increased deer activity along roads during the fall due to deer mating season.
“Deer mating season occurs between October and late December, depending on location,” the release said. “Male deer go into ‘rut’ and begin actively searching for mates. This behavior results in an increase in deer movement, bringing them across roadways.”
Deer come closer to the roadways during mating season for many different reasons, according to the release.
“During the fall breeding season, deer movement increases and this often brings them in contact with roadways that cross their natural habitats,” the release said. “Road shoulders generally provide beneficial food plants both during extremely dry times of the year and following a long, hard winter. Deer are attracted to these plants in late winter, early spring and late summer.”
The time change is another reason drivers may see more deer in the fall.
“As we begin to ‘fall back’ for daylight savings time, our days become shorter and nights become longer,” the release said. “Rush hour for most commuters tends to fall during the same hours in which white-tailed deer are most active — dawn and dusk.”
Charlie Killmaster, state deer biologist with the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division, said in the release that drivers should stay cautious and watch for more than one deer at a time.
“Motorists should be alert and pay close attention to roadsides as we are nearing the annual peak time of year for deer movement,” Killmaster said. “Keep in mind that deer often travel in groups, so if a deer crosses the road ahead of you there is a good chance that another will follow. In many cases, that second deer is the one hit as the driver assumes the danger has passed and fails to slow down.”
There are several ways to help avoid potential collisions with deer, according to the release. Drivers should remember that deer are unpredictable, so a deer standing calmly by the side of the road may bolt into or across the road if startled by a vehicle. Drivers should also remember that deer usually travel in groups, so one deer usually means more and should be especially cautious when driving in the early morning or late evening, when deer are typically the most active.
If it’s too late for a driver to avoid hitting a deer, there are ways to minimize the damage, according to the release.
“If it is too late to avoid a collision, drivers are advised to slow down as much as possible to minimize damage,” the release said. “Resist the urge to swerve to avoid the deer, as this may cause further damage, sending drivers off the road or causing a collision with another vehicle.”