The Ottumwa Courier

May 29, 2014

Caution: Deer are crossing

Courier staff writer

---- — JEFFERSON COUNTY — Fellow drivers are not the only dangers on the roadways that require full attention, especially when considering the type of accidents that have occurred lately in Jefferson County.

According to Jefferson County Sheriff Greg Morton, the sheriff’s office has had 22 incidents reported involving cars and deer in May alone, a number that is strikingly high for this time of year.

“I can’t remember every having that many in the month of May,” Morton said.

Those numbers don’t take into account the number of accidents involving deer that go unreported, also. Morton said that drivers who strike deer but do not have significant damage to their vehicles often times don’t report the incident to the sheriff’s office, so the actual number of car and deer accidents could be even higher.

In Wapello County, the number of deer related accidents has not reached the incredibly high numbers that Jefferson County has seen so far in May. However, Sheriff Mark Miller said it is always something they caution drivers about, because accidents involving deer can happen at any time of the day, not the stereotypical dawn or dusk periods when people usually fear hitting deer most.

“We don’t have those kinds of numbers, but it is still always a concern,” Miller said. “It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, either. You just have to really have your peripheral vision working.”

Both sheriffs agreed that while coming across a deer on roadways is often entirely out of driver’s control, there are plenty of cautionary measures that can be taken to avoid the animals.

“I see a lot of people on cell phones, and the problem with that is it takes your eyes off the road,” Morton said.

The split second it takes to check a text message or look at a Twitter update can be the difference between hitting a deer and missing it.

Of course, speed also is a huge factor. Both sheriffs said they caution drivers that every mile an hour they go over the speed limit means that much less time they have to react.

“If you are speeding or going too fast for conditions you have far less time to react,” Miller said.

With the increasing amount of deer related accidents in the area, drivers are encouraged to take their time getting from place to place and keep a keen eye on edges of the road for deer, especially in deer crossing zones.

— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh