Tis the season to be cautious–deer season that is.

Along with cooler weather, fall months bring about an increase in deer activity so Texas motorists should keep a close watch for animals that occasionally wander onto the highway, especially at night.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) more than 7,000 animal-related crashes occurred on Texas highways in 2009, many involving deer. Twenty-five of those crashes involved a fatality.

“Deer-vehicle collisions increase during the fall because the animals are more active,” said Carol Rawson, Traffic Operations director. “It’s this time of year that motorists need to be extra watchful and take steps to avoid collisions.”

Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) biologists predict an increase in deer population this year because of plenty of rain that has created an ideal environment for wildlife to flourish.

Deer-car accidents tally to more than 1.5 million crashes in the United States, costing an estimated $1.1 billion in vehicle damage, according to recent reports from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The Institute suggests the following defensive driving tips to avoid hitting a deer:

  • Drive carefully in areas known to have high deer populations. Places where roads divide agricultural fields from forestland are particularly dangerous.
  • If you see a deer, slow down. Others are probably nearby.
  • Use high-beam headlights when there is no oncoming traffic. The high beams will reflect off deer’s eyes and warn you of their presence.
  • If a deer is in your lane, brake firmly but stay in the lane. The most serious crashes occur when drivers swerve.
  • Don’t rely on deer whistles, deer fences or reflectors to deter deer.
  • Wear seat belts.
  • If your car strikes a deer, don’t touch the animal. If the deer is blocking the highway, call the police.

Remember, it is unlawful to possess a deer or part of a deer that has been hit by a motor vehicle. For more information on fish and wildlife laws, go to http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/annual/general/penalties/.

For more information, contact Government & Public Affairs media relations at 512-463-8700.