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No one is immune to deer crashes

Staff writer

Sheriff’s deputy Joshua Meliza joined a not-too-elite club shortly before dawn Tuesday.

Over the past 12 months, Marion County motorists have hit deer an average of once every 60 hours.

Meliza’s time was up at 5:33 a.m. Tuesday on Sunflower Rd. just south of 170th Rd.

He hit a deer with his squad car. To provide independent investigation of the accident, Marion’s interim police chief, Zach Hudlin, was awakened and sent to the scene.

In the past 12 months, according to Record analysis of data, 43.2% of all reported traffic accidents in Marion County have involved deer.

Although down slightly from a six-year high last year, that still is much higher than the 37% of accidents that deer account for statewide.

Meliza is by no means the first law enforcement officer to hit one in the county. His boss, Sheriff Jeff Soyez, hit a deer with his patrol vehicle at 12:33 a.m. April 13 on Main St. just west of Arbor St. in Marion.

Neither officer was injured. Most people involved in deer crashes aren’t. Still, six Kansans died, and 575 others were injured in deer accidents in 2022, the most recent year for which full data are available.

According to Kansas Department of Transportation, the best way to guard against deer strikes is to use high-beam headlights when oncoming traffic isn’t present and look for brightly reflective eyes along the roadway.

Swerving to avoid deer is a bad idea, experts say. While a deer accident can result in damage, more serious crashes tend to occur when drivers try to avoid deer.

A vehicle driving into oncoming traffic or into a ditch, then striking a fixed object or rolling, can result in greater damage and injury.

Nearly all deer collisions should be reported to authorities because most will result in damage of at least $1,000.

If you hit a deer, KDOT recommends moving your vehicle to the shoulder, remaining in it with your seat belt fastened, turning on your vehicle’s hazard lights, then calling 911.

Unlike Meliza, you probably won’t have to wait until an officer from a different jurisdiction is awakened to come investigate.

Kansas is home to an estimated 699,400 deer, the majority of them being whitetails.

Although deer accidents feel as if they are increasing, that population is down slightly from its peak in 2000.

Last modified March 7, 2024

 

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