Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials are warning drivers to be extra careful as deer are more likely to be on roadways this time of year.
"Deer movement spikes this time of year, from October through December," KYTC District 8 Information Officer Amber Hale noted. "We just want motorists to always be alert, drive with caution and expect the unexpected."
The combination of fewer daylight hours and cooler temperatures cause deer to emerge earlier than normal in the fall. Kentucky ranks 15th in the nation for deer-vehicle collisions with drivers facing a 1 in 100 chance of hitting one.
While Northern Kentucky leads the state in vehicle-deer collisions, Hale said that Pulaski County ranked 12th in the commonwealth with a total of 68 deer-related crashes in 2017.
The increase in deer-vehicle collisions usually starts in mid-October when farmers are harvesting fall grain. The harvest reduces both available food and concealed habitat for the deer. Other factors include hunting season as well as mating season, which cause deer to stray from their normal travel patterns and into residential neighborhoods with higher traffic numbers.
Last year, some 3,200 deer-vehicle collisions were reported to law enforcement agencies statewide -- up 100 from 2016. However, Hale noted that number could be higher, since not all crashes are reported to police.
According to State Farm Insurance, the national average cost per deer collision claim last year was $4,179 -- up from $3,995 the year prior. In addition to damaging vehicles, deer contribute to roughly 200 traffic fatalities across the nation each year. In Kentucky, the annual figures average more than 100 injury crashes and around three highway fatalities.
In addition to general safe driving tips like wearing a seat belt and driving defensively, the state Transportation Cabinet offers these tips to help avoid hitting deer:
• Keep headlights on bright unless other vehicles are approaching. High beams will reflect in the eyes of deer on or near the roadway, providing increased driver reaction time.
• Slow down immediately upon spotting a deer. Since they often travel in herds, more than may be crossing the roadway.
• Don't swerve to avoid a deer. Not only could it confuse the deer about where to run, swerving may also cause you to lose control and hit a tree or another vehicle.
• In the event of a crash, keep both hands on the wheel and apply brakes steadily until stopped. KYTC also urges drivers to report all deer-vehicle collisions to law enforcement to ensure accurate numbers and allow highway officials to place signage or take other counter-measures to reduce crashes in high-risk locations.