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Too many deer getting caught in headlights

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Updated: December 4, 2012 6:09AM

Seems like, lately, I have had the opportunity to see deer as they loped across the roadway in front of me, but I wasn’t even close to hitting them.

Maybe I’m becoming a more defensive driver in my old age, although my father always said if you get rear- ended, it’s your fault because you should have been looking in the rearview mirror and you may have been able to get out of the way.

The deer vs. vehicle collision numbers were released recently by the Illinois Department of Transportation and it shows there were less deaths and injuries in 2011, but deer collisions with cars and trucks is climbing.

Accidents with deer accounted for six fatalities last year, a decrease from 10 in 2010.

Injuries related to deer accidents were 613 in 2011, down from 634 in 2010.

Here in Lake County, we almost didn’t make the top 10 counties in Illinois for collisions involving deer in 2010 with 320, which ranked us 10th. In 2011, we moved up a spot to ninth with 360.

Why have death and injuries gone down?

It’s anyone’s guess.

Better safety equipment in vehicles might be one reason.

Maybe people don’t swerve as much, which sometimes can put you on a collision course with another vehicle head-on or a tree.

I always tried to remind my daughters that, yes, its sad to hit an animal, yes it’s even sadder if you get hurt while trying to avoid the animal in the roadway.

“We are pleased to report the recent decline in fatal crashes involving deer, but much more awareness and care are still needed to drive down the total number of crashes and injuries due to these unfortunate circumstances,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider.

The number of deer involved in accidents rose from 17,135 in 2010 to 18,039 in 2011. It’s a small increase, and still less than the 18,849 crashes in 2009.

In fact, that 17,135 was the lowest total number since 1999, according to IDOT.

If you are thinking that there are a lot of accidents because urban areas have encroached on rural areas, think again.

The majority, three out of every four crashes in 2011, occurred on rural roadways.

But get this: The top county for deer collisions was Cook County with 554, the bastion of urban highways.

As you may have guessed, 71 percent of the accidents occurred at twilight or nighttime.

October, November and December are the busy months for deer collisions.

Being a defensive driver is really your only course to avoiding deer.

If you see one, be ready for others to follow.

If one ran across the road, be careful it doesn’t double back on you.

Flashing headlights and honking your horn will encourage deer to get off the roadway, says the Illinois department of Natural Resources.

“Being a defensive driver is always a good idea,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller.

Last bit of advice from the IDNR: Keep track of where you see deer on your regular route so you can avoid being surprised.

Go Monday

Lake County Audubon, will host a talk called “Bats: Why We Should All Be Batty for Them!”

This is the Year of the Bat and the talk is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. and features Lara Sviatko discussing the value of bats to the environment and the economy.

She will dispel some myths about bats while giving interesting bat facts.

It’s free at the Libertyville Village Hall, 118 W. Cook Street.

Go Thursday

Conserve Lake County and Friends of Ryerson Woods are bringing two experts, one on wolves and another on coyotes, to Lake County for a program on Thursday from 7-9 p.m. at the Greenbelt Cultural Center.

Cost is $15 for adults and $5 for students.

Members of Conserve Lake County (formerly known as Liberty Prairie Conservancy), Friends of Ryerson Woods, Lake Forest Open Lands and Wild Ones pay $10 for the talk at the center, 1215 Green Bay Road, North Chicago.

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