By KATHRYNE RUBRIGHT
Only three Ohio counties have had more deer-related car accidents than Hancock County so far this year.
The county’s 250 crashes are surpassed by Defiance (297), Richland (265) and Stark (260) counties, according to Ohio State Highway Patrol statistics.
“We have a pretty good population and we have a major interstate” in I-75, said OSHP Lt. Matt Crow, Findlay post commander. Factor in the county’s significant rural areas, and the “high traffic volume” results in the high deer accident ranking.
Hancock County also ranked fourth out of 88 counties in 2018, when there were 424 deer-related accidents. Richland (426) and Trumbull (428) counties were just above that, and Stark County (486) had the most.
Hancock County has been moving up the list in recent years: It was sixth in 2017 (405), seventh in 2016 (381), tied for eighth with Defiance and Tuscarawas counties in 2015 (409), and 12th in 2014 (365).
As of Oct. 15, when the OSHP data was last updated, Ohio had seen 10,543 deer-related crashes so far this year.
The statistics reflect “crashes in which the report indicates the vehicle struck a deer,” according to Staff Lt. Craig S. Cvetan, public affairs commander with the patrol. So, if a driver avoids a deer by swerving and then crashes, that wouldn’t count.
Swerving is exactly what a driver shouldn’t do if a collision with a deer seems imminent.
“Go against your intuition when it comes to deer,” Crow advised.
He recalled a recent accident on a “little township road” near Rawson. The driver swerved, still hit the relatively small deer, and the passenger sustained a back injury, Crow said.
If the driver hadn’t swerved, the accident probably would have resulted only in headlight and grill damage, he said.
Statewide, about 94.6 percent of this year’s accidents have resulted only in property damage, though four fatalities have been recorded. In each of those cases, the driver was on a motorcycle or was not wearing a seat belt. Two of the drivers were intoxicated, OSHP crash reports show.
After any deer accident, the driver should call law enforcement and get their car off the road if possible, especially since many of these accidents happen at night, Crow said.
As for the deer, “if they want it, they can have it,” he said. No special license or tag is needed; law enforcement will issue a receipt for the deer.
If not, there’s a list of people law enforcement can call to take it away.
The 9 p.m. hour has been the peak deer accident time this year in Hancock County, with 35 accidents in that slot.
The prime times are 5 to 8 a.m. and 6 to 11 p.m., according to OSHP statistics. Almost 73 percent of Hancock County’s deer accidents this year have happened in those eight hours.
Since it’s often dark when deer are out, “you’ll see their eyes first” because they reflect headlights, Crow said. Drivers should slow down if they see that, and “if you see one, be prepared to see more than one” because the animals often move in groups.
October, November and December lead the way in deer accidents, with about 47.3 percent of crashes statewide from 2014 through 2018 occurring in that quarter of the year.
It’s “like clockwork,” Crow said: Deer start moving when farmers start harvesting.
More deer accident statistics:
• Stark County had the most deer-related crashes in 2014 and from 2016 through 2018.
• Richland, Stark and Trumbull counties had more deer-related accidents than Hancock County every year from 2014 through 2018.
• Monroe County, one of the state’s least-populous counties, had the fewest every year from 2014 though 2018, and the fewest so far this year, with just four.
• Recent statewide totals range from 18,256 deer accidents in 2018 to 20,985 in 2015.
• Sunday is consistently the day of the week with the fewest deer-related crashes.