Earlier darkness, deer-mating season spell trouble for drivers

WASHINGTON — Now that the D.C. region has turned its clocks back one hour and it’s getting dark out earlier, it’s especially important for drivers to keep an eye out for lovey-dovey deer.

The end of daylight saving time coincides with the middle of deer-mating season.

“Dawn or dusk is when they’re out there the most, and that’s usually when we’re going to work,” said Jim Battagliese, WTOP’s director of Traffic and Weather Operations.

His advice for drivers?

“Slow down, be on the lookout. At night if you can use your high beams, use your high beams and just be on alert for those deer. They will jump out in front of you.”

If a deer does cross your path, hit the brakes but don’t swerve to avoid the animal.

“Then you risk maybe injuring somebody else by veering into oncoming traffic. Going off the road, you could also hit a tree,” Battagliese said.

The deer population is estimated at about 200,000 in Maryland, and about one million in Virginia.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources estimates about 11,000 deer were killed by cars in the state last year.

A county-by-county breakdown shows Montgomery County had the highest number reported at just less than 4,000, followed by around 1,600 in Howard County and about 1,000 in Prince George’s County.

The DNR cautions that those figures vary widely year to year, because the state relies on numerous different agencies to report them.

State Farm has an annual list estimating how likely drivers are of having a crash with a deer that leads to an insurance claim.

This year, Virginia ranks 13th with a one in 94 chance, Maryland is 25th with a one in 139 chance, and D.C. ranks 46th with a one in 689 chance.

This year, West Virginia was the state where drivers were most likely to have a claim from a deer-car crash.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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