White-tailed deer (AP file)
(WXIA) - Motorists are advised to exercise caution on the state's roadways during the fall season, with an increased number of deer sightings across the state.
"Deer are on the move during this time of year," said Commissioner Mark Williams, Department of Natural Resources. "While motorists in rural areas may expect to see deer, Georgia's suburban and urban areas can be prime spots as well."
The Governor's Office of Highway Safety says more than 300 people were hurt in vehicle collisions with deer during 2011. Nationally, federal officials said 1,000 people died in similar accidents between 2006 and 2010.
"Automobile claims caused by contact with a deer generally rise dramatically in the fall," said Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens. "I encourage all Georgia drivers to check their automobile policy to determine if they have adequate coverage. This optional protection is commonly found in the comprehensive coverage of an automobile policy."
A number of factors come into play during the fall which increase the number of vehicle-deer collisions.
Deer mating season is between October and early December. Male deer begin actively searching for females during that timeframe.
An increase in human populations moving into deer habitats in more traditionally rural or wooded areas. The deer tend to move to new areas in search of food and water, which can bring them into contact with more people.
During the fall, when the time changes from daylight time to standard time - specifically the first weekend in November - darkness occurs earlier, which increases the likelihood that deer may come into contact with motorists during the early evening hours.
State officials suggest that motorists keep a number of things in mind. First off, deer are unpredictable. A deer standing along the side of the road can suddenly bolt into or across the roadway as opposed to away from it when startled.
Additionally, motorists should keep in mind that when one deer is seen, usually more are nearby. Slow down and be cautious when you see them. Deer are most active during the time around dusk and dawn, and are typically seen on roadsides during the early morning and late evening hours - when most people are commuting to and from work.
While collisions with deer can happen at any time of the year, the fall breeding season is the peak time for these types of accidents. State officials said the shoulders of roadways provide green food during dry times, and after a long, hard winter.
Finally, if it is too late for motorists to avoid a collision, they're advised to slow down as much as possible to minimize damage and to resist the urge to swerve to avoid the deer. Officials say this may cause further damage, sending a vehicle off the road or causing a collision with another vehicle. If an accident, alert police as soon as possible.