Already 5,400 car-deer collisions in Iowa this year, tips to avoid being next

MASONC ITY — Farmers are nearly done with the harvest and those empty fields mean thousands of deer are losing their hiding places and they’re scampering onto roads — and into the paths of Iowa motorists.

This is among the worst times of the year for car-deer collisions, and Iowa State Patrol Trooper Paul Gardner says they’ve already taken quite a toll this year.  “So far in 2023, we have seen over 5,400 animal-related crashes come in,” Gardner says, “and those have resulted in 23 serious injuries and five fatalities.”

Gardner says Iowans have likely heard the phrase, “Don’t veer for deer,” and he says it’s one they need to commit to memory — and take seriously.  “We want to stress how important it is to pay attention to your surroundings, drive the speed limit, watch your following distance with other vehicles, and most importantly, avoid swerving for deer,” Gardner says. “Your vehicle could lose control, end up striking another vehicle, or leave the road entirely, striking other objects and cause a more serious crash.”

So the odds finally caught up with you and you’ve hit a deer. What should you do next? “Pull over to the side of the road, to a safe place. Verify what you have for damage, just survey the vehicle, make sure no one’s hurt in the vehicle, make sure everyone is okay,” Gardner says. “You can call your local law enforcement, you can call the Iowa State Patrol, we’ll come out and do a report if the damage is extensive enough where you need a crash report for this.”

The incidence of car-deer crashes tends to rise around sunrise and sunset. Gardner suggests you use particular caution if you see a yellow “Deer Crossing” sign, as those are placed in areas the animals frequent.