More deer in the headlights; Southern Utah officials advise of ‘hot spots’

Photo by frontpoint/Getty Images; St. George News / Cedar City News

SOUTHERN UTAH — When many people hear “most dangerous animal,” they usually think of claws, fangs or fins. However, by the strict definition of animal-related fatalities, deer are the number one killer, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control.

Fear not, it’s not a rabid deer epidemic. But if you swerve to avoid one in the road, you could be putting yourself at serious risk. Given a recent predicted spike in deer-related accidents, local Division of Wildlife Resources officials are offering areas in Southern Utah where drivers need to be especially cautious.

On Sept. 19, State Farm Insurance issued a press release wherein they predicted that as deer mating season approaches – the months when most collisions occur – Utah drivers could expect to see a 30 percent increase in deer-related accidents. The odds of a Utah driver hitting a deer are 1 out of 150. This is higher than the national odds of 1 in 164.

While it may seem strange to label these as “good odds,” here are several things that are less likely to happen to your average person:

  • Winning the multistate “Powerball” lottery: 1 in 185 million
  • Being attacked by a shark: 1 in 11.5 million.
  • Dying in a plane crash: 1 in 11 million.
  • Finding a pearl in an oyster: 1 in 12,000.
  • Being struck by lightning in your entire lifetime: 1 in 3,000.

Unfortunately, the closest common occurrence that is likely to happen to you is getting audited by the IRS (1 in 175), so be sure to save those receipts.

According to the press release from State Farm, Utah is ranked 29 in the United States for the most deer collisions. The months a driver is most likely to collide with a deer in Utah are October, November and December, when deer mating season is in full swing, and the average national cost per claim is $3,995.

Phil Tuttle, outreach manager for the southern region office of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, told St. George News that the DWR has been making considerable efforts toward reducing wildlife presence on roadways. He said:

The Division has spent a lot of money over the past several years to minimize impacts, particularly on I-15 and I-70. And we’ve, for the most part, taken care of the problem areas along I-15 and I-70. There is going to be a deer that occasionally slips through a fence or somehow gets on there via an overpass.

However, there are still some “hot spots” in Southern Utah, Tuttle said, where drivers need to be extra cautious.

To come by this information, Tuttle said he checked a specific incident database maintained by the DWR.

An elderly man was transported to the hospital by Life Flight after a buck jumped onto the hood of his truck on state Route 18 near milepost 14, Washington County, Utah, Dec. 2, 2015 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News
An elderly man was transported to the hospital by Life Flight after a buck jumped onto the hood of his truck on state Route 18 near milepost 14, Washington County, Utah, Dec. 2, 2015 | Photo by Ric Wayman, St. George News

“Every time that our technicians are out picking up deer off the road that were hit by vehicles, we actually enter that into a database,” he said. “So we have areas where we know are ‘hot spots,’ if you will, and we’re able to draw off that information to either, if possible, put up a fence and maybe build an underpass or passage for deer to move. That database is where I went to see where most of the collisions are still happening.”

State Route 18 from Diamond Valley to Veyo is one of these hot spots, Tuttle said.

“That’s an area that’s a migration corridor,” he said. “There are quite a few deer seasonally that move across that. We still have a fair amount of collisions there.”

Tuttle also listed the junction of State Route 14 and U.S. Route 89, more commonly known as “Todd’s Junction.”

State Route 56 from Cedar City to Newcastle is another problem spot, Tuttle said.

People want to be aware when they’re traveling through all those areas that there is a high likelihood of seeing deer.”

Just like most accidents, hitting a deer (or even being hit by one) is a traumatic experience that can lead to more than simply damage to a vehicle. In many cases, serious injury or death can result.

However, highways and interstates aren’t the only roadways where collisions with deer are prevalent.

“We even still have a fair amount of deer being hit on Main Street in Cedar City,” he said.

Tuttle said there isn’t much the DWR can do about those, but he suggested general safety tips regarding driving in deer-prone areas that could mitigate the issue.

Wild Aware Utah offers the following road safety tips:

  • Be especially alert at dawn and dusk.
  • Motorcyclists should be even more cautious while driving.
  • Heed wildlife crossing signs. These signs are usually placed in areas known to have a high volume of wildlife–vehicle collisions.
  • Be alert on roadways near wooded, agricultural, wetland areas and near lakes and streams.
  • Scan both sides of the road. Invite passengers to help the driver search for wildlife.
  • Do not drive distracted. Put away food, phones and other distractions.
  • When able, use high beam headlights to illuminate the road.
  • Look for an animal’s eye shine, which can be seen from a distance. Slow down once you have spotted an animal near the road.
  • Some animals travel in groups. There may be more following behind the first one.
  • Do not swerve, stay in your lane and slow down.
  • If several animals are standing in the road, do not try to drive through them or get out of the vehicle to chase them. Honk your horn and flash your lights to encourage them to move on.
  • Be cautious, an animal that has crossed the road may try to go back across again.

If you have a collision with any form of wildlife, put on your hazard lights and pull over. Do not attempt to approach the animal; call 911 or your local law enforcement officials.

Email: pdail@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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5 Comments

  • DB September 28, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Interesting info. So, there’s a decent chance of me getting an IRS audit and/or striking a horny deer in my Prius…I’ll sure sleep well tonight 🙂 On my way back from Great Basin a couple months ago, three deer crossed in front of me in broad daylight. No problem in the day, big problem at night.

  • Lastdays September 29, 2016 at 7:19 am

    After looking at the picture for this article, it’s refreshing to see that some deer are using the designated deer crossing locations posted on the highway. It would be great if the deer population would pass this info around and continue to use these crossings.

  • .... September 29, 2016 at 11:13 am

    Yes the deer should be considerate and cross only at deer x-ings …Praise the Lord !

  • RealMcCoy September 29, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Careful, the liberals will use this as a supporting argument that signs do actually work.
    I can see them using this article the next time they want to chant about ‘gun free’ zones.

    • .... September 29, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      Well maybe they can put the sign next to the Gun X-ing sign

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