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Fear the deer - deadly autumn road hazard

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety reminds motorists that the deer breeding season and crop harvest activity are the primary factors for increased deer movement during the autumn, resulting in a danger to motorists - especially motorcyclists.

There were 7,751 deer-vehicle crashes reported to DPS during the last three years, 2008-2010. More than one-third of those crashes took place in October and November - resulting in 19 deaths, of which 15 were motorcyclists. The crashes also resulted in 65 serious injuries, of which 57 were sustained by motorcyclists.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimates the state's deer population is one million.

Motorist Safety Tips:

· Buckle up, drive at safe speeds and pay attention - be especially cautious during dusk and dawn when deer are more active.

· Don't veer for deer - swerving can cause motorists to lose control and travel off the road or into oncoming traffic. Bringing a vehicle to a controlled stop and hitting a deer is safer than swerving.

Motorcyclist deer safety tips:

· Avoid night and low-light riding periods (dusk and dawn) when deer are more active.

· When encountering deer, use both brakes to stop. If riders cannot stop in time, swerve carefully and slowly around the deer if there is space.

· If a collision cannot be avoided, keep head and eyes up to improve chances of keeping the bike up.

· Wear protective gear, especially a DOT-approved helmet.

"Drive focused and defensively by looking for reflecting deer eyes and silhouettes, especially during low-light times, and in forested and farm areas," says Lt. Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol. "Deer do unpredictable things, like stop in the middle of the road, or cross and quickly re-cross. Sound your horn to urge the deer to leave the road."

If a deer is struck by a vehicle, but not killed, DNR officials suggest for safety reasons to keep a distance from the animal. However, if a deer remains onsite, or poses a public safety risk, report the incident to a DNR conservation officer or other local law enforcement agency.

Any Minnesota resident may claim a road-killed animal by contacting a law enforcement officer. An authorization permit will be issued allowing the individual to lawfully possess the deer.