TOPEKA — As mid-November approaches, Kansas is at its yearly peak for crashes involving deer, with Nov. 13 and 14 being the two days when the state historically sees the most such collisions, officials said.
A crash Sunday night in Allen County claimed the lives of three women who were in a minivan, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol.
Another crash Monday morning on the Kansas Turnpike southwest of Topeka resulted in a woman being taken to a local hospital after she swerved to avoid hitting a deer in the roadway.
Kansas Highway Patrol Technical Trooper Stephen LaRow said in 2016, the state recorded 10,242 car versus deer crashes, resulting in seven people being killed and 597 being injured.
In 2015, there were 10,084 car versus deer crashes, which resulted in eight deaths and 531 injuries, LaRow said.
Car versus deer crashes can occur in nearly every part of the state. LaRow said in 2016, Butler County in south-central Kansas recorded 385 crashes in a mostly rural area. Meanwhile, Johnson County — a more populated area in northeast Kansas — had 371.
Though car versus deer crashes can occur at any time during the year, LaRow noted the heaviest concentration is during the fall. That is the height of the rutting — or mating — season for deer.
“Dusk and dawn tend to be our peak times,” LaRow said. “That’s when the deer are most mobile, especially during the rut right now.”
LaRow offered several safety tips for motorists if they encounter deer on or near the roadway.
“No. 1, don’t swerve to try to avoid it,” he said. “You might go into the ditch and roll. It’s better to strike the deer than risk going into the ditch and rolling.
“The swerving can lead to over-correcting, and you run the risk of a rollover, which is often more dangerous than just hitting the animal.”
If a motorist hits a deer and their vehicle is disabled, LaRow said, “the best thing to do is try to get off the road as far as possible.”
LaRow advised people to pull off the road, then stay in their car and call law enforcement, rather than getting out of their vehicle to check on the injured animal.
He said people who get out of a vehicle and cross a roadway to check on a deer “take some serious risks,” including being struck themselves by a passing vehicle or encountering an animal that can be extremely aggressive after being injured.
“Call and let dispatch know that there’s an animal in the roadway,” LaRow said. “We’ll come by, and we can drag it off.”
LaRow said it has been his experience that more often than not, a deer that has been hit by a vehicle ends up on the side of the road or in the median.
People who want to take a deer that has been hit for its meat need to contact local law enforcement, such as their county sheriff’s office, which in many cases issues tags for those wishing to pick up a freshly killed animal.
In the crash this past weekend, three women were killed Sunday evening on an Allen County highway when a deer that had been struck by a passing car went airborne and crashed through the windshield of a minivan passing in the opposite direction, authorities said.
The Kansas Highway Patrol said the crash occurred just before dusk at 5:30 p.m. Sunday on U.S. Highway 169, approximately 4 miles south of Iola.
LaRow said a 2006 Toyota Corolla was northbound on U.S. 169 when a deer came out of the east ditch, striking the car.
LaRow said the deer “entered the front windshield and almost made it out of the back window” of the minivan.
LaRow said the minivan came to rest facing south in the southbound ditch without rolling over.
The Corolla came to rest on the northbound shoulder.
All three occupants in the minivan were pronounced dead at the scene.
The highway patrol identified the fatality victims as Sherry Laraine Bingham, 33, Chanute; Ciara Joan Edwards, 32, Chanute; and Samantha Renee McMillan, 37, Walnut.
The patrol said all three were wearing their seat belts.
The driver of the Corolla, Ashley Nicole Walters, 20, Warrensburg, Mo., wasn’t injured. The patrol said Walters was wearing her seat belt.
Numerous car versus deer crashes also have been reported in recent weeks in Shawnee County, including one Monday morning that sent a woman to a local hospital.
That crash was reported at 2:40 a.m. Monday on Interstate 335 along the turnpike in southwestern Shawnee County, authorities said.
According to the Kansas Turnpike Authority, a 2004 Chevrolet Classic was traveling north when the driver swerved to miss a deer. The car struck the barrier wall and came to rest facing south in the northbound ditch.
The driver, identified as Kathryn Yvette Paredes, 53, Topeka, was taken by ambulance to a hospital with injuries that weren’t believed to be life-threatening.
The turnpike authority said Paredes was wearing her seat belt.
A passenger in the car, Syera Marisol Paredes, 19, Topeka, was reported as being possibly injured. The turnpike’s crash report didn’t indicate whether she was wearing a seat belt or required hospital treatment.
The turnpike authority’s report said the deer wasn’t struck in the incident.
As people travel the state’s roadways this time of year, LaRow said, drivers need to be extra cautious, particularly with more deer on the move.
He said the patrol always advises people to “give their full attention” to the road when they are driving.
“But this time of year,” he said, “it’s especially important.”