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State agencies remind drivers to beware of deer on roads

The New Jersey Department of Transportation and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection are reminding drivers to be extra vigilant on roads this fall as mating season for white-tailed deer gets underway and daylight hours decrease.

Deer are more likely to suddenly enter roads at this time of year, also known as the fall rut, as bucks pursue does, increasing the risk for sudden stops or collisions, according to a press release from the two departments.

Deer activity is more likely to occur during early morning hours and around sunset, when visibility may be difficult and more motorists are on their work commutes.

“Deer are involved in thousands of collisions with motor vehicles in New Jersey every year, most of which occur during the fall mating season,” DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Dave Golden said.

“We urge all drivers to be especially alert to the possibility of deer suddenly darting onto roads and to understand how to reduce the risk of a collision and possible serious injury to themselves or their passengers,” Golden said.

Statewide, peak mating season for deer in New Jersey runs from late October into mid-December.

Awareness will become even more important when daylight saving time ends at 2 a.m. Nov. 7. Many commutes will then align with the periods when deer are most active and lighting conditions may be the most difficult for driving, according to the press release.

Reduced lighting as well as sun glare can make it very difficult for drivers to see deer that are about to cross the road.

These tips can help motorists stay safe during peak of the annual fall rut:

  • Slow down if you see a deer and watch for possible sudden movement. If the deer is in the road and does not move, wait for the deer to cross and the road is clear. Do not try to drive around the deer;
  • Watch for “Deer Crossing” signs. Slow down when traveling through areas known to have a high concentration of deer so there is enough time to stop, if necessary;
  • Use high beams after dark if there is no oncoming traffic or vehicles ahead. High beams will be reflected by the eyes of deer on or near roads. If you see one deer, assume others may be in the area;
  • Do not tailgate. The driver ahead might have to stop suddenly to avoid colliding with a deer;
  • Always wear a seatbelt, as required by law. Drive at a safe and sensible speed, following the speed limit, factoring for weather, available lighting, traffic, curves and other road conditions;
  • Do not swerve to avoid impact if a collision appears inevitable. A deer may counter-maneuver suddenly. Brake appropriately and stay in your lane. Collisions are more likely to become fatal when a driver swerves to avoid a deer and instead collides with oncoming traffic or a fixed structure along the road;
  • Report any deer-vehicle collision to a local law enforcement agency immediately;
  • Obey the state’s hands-free device law or refrain from using cellular devices while driving.
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