Rachael Van Horn
Woodward, Okla. —
In most towns and cities, when someone is leaving an evening event, someone will shout "watch out for the cops."
But in Northwest Oklahoma, they are more likely to say "watch out for the deer", according to Oklahoma Highway Patrol officials.
OHP officials recently issued a press release warning drivers, especially in rural areas to be on the lookout for an increasing number of animals in roadways.
According to OHP Cpt. George Brown, officers have seen an increase in car collisions with animals in the last few days.
In Oklahoma in 2011, there were 467 crashes reported involving deer resulting in two fatalities and 184 people injured, according to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. In addition, the OHSO reports:
60 percent of these deer-involved motor vehicle crashes occurred at night;
73 percent took place in an area not built up;
95 percent involved deer and one vehicle;
23 percent of these crashes occurred in November.
Chuck Mai is the public information officer for AAA Oklahoma. He said nationally, more than 2,000 fatal crashes per year involve collisions related to animals.
"A driver may encounter any number of scenarios at any given moment behind the wheel,” Mai said. “Remaining alert and limiting distractions is a must. Animals are unpredictable, so the sooner you see them in the roadway, the more time you will have to safely react.”
What to Do If an Animal Runs In Front Of Your Vehicle
Scan the road and shoulders ahead of you. Looking ahead helps provide enough reaction time if an animal is spotted, Mai said. Also, remember some animals move in groups, so when there is one, there are usually more in the area.
Use high beam headlights if there’s no oncoming traffic. Wildlife may be spotted sooner when using high beams. This will give the driver time to slow down, move over or honk the horn to scare the animal away. High beams also help in spotting some animals’ reflective eyes.
If a collision is unavoidable, apply the brakes firmly and remain in your lane. Swerving to avoid an animal can often cause a more serious crash or result in drivers losing control of vehicles.
Be extra cautious at dawn and dusk. Most animals, especially deer, tend to be more active early in the morning and at dusk and they are more difficult to spot, Mai said.
Slow down and use extra caution when traveling through areas with a high and active wildlife population. Be aware of increased wildlife movement in some regions during certain times of year such as hunting or mating season.
Drivers should always wear a seat belt and remain awake, alert and sober.