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Deer on move

There is no question the amount of resources spent attempting to decrease the number of alcohol-related traffic accidents and drunk driving in general. And it's having an effect. In 2012, the number of alcohol-related traffic accidents in Kansas was 2,184 -- the lowest number in more than a decade.

But did you know you're four times as likely to be involved in a deer-vehicle accident? According to the Kansas Department of Transportation, there were almost 8,700 traffic crashes involving deer last year. Only two people were killed in those accidents, compared to 57 in the alcohol-related wrecks, but there are concerns the amount of damage is steadily increasing.

With mating season in full swing, it seemed like a good time for the state insurance commissioner to issue a warning.

"The reality of driving on Kansas roads and highways this time of year is the possible encounter with a deer," said Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger. "And that encounter could result in costly vehicle repairs."

A State Farm Insurance report pegged the average amount at $3,414, a 3.3 percent increase from the year before. The odds of hitting a deer in Kansas are 1 in 128, with mid-fall and mid-spring being the most dangerous times. Breeding habits explain the spike in autumn; vegetation growth in the spring has more deer on the state's roads.

The annual deer breeding season runs from now through late December.

"The reality of driving on Kansas roads and highways this time of year is the possible encounter with a deer," Praeger said in a press release. "Defensive driving is always important, but this time of year it's extremely important. Do everything you can to protect yourself and your family while driving."

The insurance commissioner offered some tips to help avoid deer-vehicle collisions:

* Watch for the reflection of deer eyes and for deer silhouettes on the shoulder of the road.

* Do not rely exclusively on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors to deter deer.

* At night, use high-beam headlights when there is no opposing traffic. The high beams will better illuminate the eyes of deer on or near a roadway.

* Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path, but stay in your lane. Many serious accidents occur when drivers swerve to avoid a deer and hit other vehicles or lose control of their cars. Potentially, you will risk less injury by hitting the deer head-on.

* If you see one deer, it is likely there are more close by.

* If the deer stays on the road, stop on the shoulder, put on your hazard lights and wait for the deer to leave the roadway.

While it is important to pay attention to deer crossing signs, do not rely on the animals to do the same. Deer are on the move, and potentially can show up on any roadway. Be observant.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net