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Deer an active threat to motorists

| Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, 9:35 p.m.

The roads and highways aren't just filled with shoppers.

Dead deer have littered roadways across Western Pennsylvania in increasing numbers for weeks. November has the most collisions on average between cars and deer.

Nearly one in five car-versus-deer accidents happen in November, according to State Farm insurance.

“We have deer kills on highways all year around,” said Jay Ofsanik, a safety officer with PennDOT in Uniontown. “But right now, it's a season you will see more deer hit for a number of reasons.”

For one, it's mating season, and two, bow hunters are in the woods. Both cause deer to be more active.

“When we have more deer movement, they are going to go across roads,” Ofsanik said. “And when that happens, you are going to have more unfortunate interactions between deer and cars.”

The fact that it gets dark earlier is a factor, Ofsanik said. Deer feed at night, and more people are driving after dark, he said.

“People need to be more aware of those issues,” Ofsanik said, particularly people who drive in Pennsylvania, which consistently ranks near the top in deer-related collisions.

During the next year, State Farm estimates a national high of 114,933 vehicles in Pennsylvania will strike a deer. That nearly doubles North Carolina's forecast of 59,270 — the second highest.

About one in 76.5 licensed drivers in Pennsylvania will hit a deer during the next year. West Virginia once again leads the nation, with one in 41 motorists facing such collisions. The national average is projected at one in 174.

Nationally, the presence of deer caused 1.22 million motor-vehicle accidents between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2013, according to State Farm. That was a 3.5 percent drop from the previous year.

“This data is encouraging,” said Chris Mullen, director of strategic resources at State Farm. “We would like to think the attention we call to this issue each fall has had an impact.”

PennDOT officials do not have monthly figures for deer-related crashes.

From 2008 through 2012, the agency documented 22,575 deer-related crashes on Pennsylvania roads causing 6,709 injuries and 59 deaths.

During that period, the seven-county Pittsburgh region experienced 4,285 deer-related crashes. Nearly a third happened on Allegheny County roads.

Those crashes resulted in 1,214 injuries and nine deaths. Four fatalities occurred in Westmoreland County, which tied Dauphin County for the most over that period.

“It's not just the deer that are dying out there,” Ofsanik said. “And it's not just out in rural areas. We're seeing them a lot in the suburbs.”

Motorists should heighten awareness of their surroundings, though collisions with deer sometimes are unavoidable, Ofsanik said.

“(People) know the roadways. They know where they see deer in certain areas,” he said. “And if you see one, look out. They generally move in groups.”

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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