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It's that time of the year -- watch for deer

Don't veer for deer...swerving into traffic could be much worse than hitting a deer.

Every year in the U.S. approximately 1.5 million car-deer collisions kill about 150 people and cause about $1 billion in vehicle damage. Drivers beware -- we are entering the time of the year when deer-vehicle crashes are most common.

In 2010, Wisconsin drivers reported 16,947 motor vehicle-deer collisions with 14 fatalities and numerous injuries. Approximately 70 percent of the fatalities involve deer-motorcycle crashes. During the same time period, the Department of Natural Resources removed 26,595 deer carcasses from Wisconsin's roadway system, indicating that only about half of all deer encounters with motor vehicles are reported.

October and November are typically peak months for deer crashes. The incidents are most likely to occur between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. and between 5 p.m. and midnight.

"The number of persons injured or killed in deer crashes in our state has increased since the late 1970s and drivers need to be especially alert now when deer are active and searching for mates," said Ron Von Haden, CIC, executive vice president of the Professional Insurance Agents of Wisconsin (PIAW). "In most cases it's best not to veer out of your lane to avoid hitting a deer. Often hitting a deer does less damage to your car than might be caused by swerving into a lane of oncoming traffic or leaving the road and ending up in a ditch."

Here are a few tips for drivers traveling the highways of Western Wisconsin this fall.

--Deer move in groups. If you see one, there are probably more deer close by.

--Be especially alert during the peak deer movement hours: twilight and early morning.

--If you ride a motorcycle, consider driving only during daylight hours as deer-motorcycle crashes have a significantly higher rate of fatalities. If you must drive during twilight and early morning, slow down and be especially alert.

--When you see a deer, slow down and blow your horn with one long blast. Brake firmly, but stay in your lane...don't veer or swerve into another lane.

--Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles, which have not been proven to reduce crashes.

--If you hit a deer, pull well off the road and turn on your emergency flashers. Even if you are uninjured and your car is drivable, notify authorities.

The best advice: stay alert, stay vigilant and drive carefully.