One county in Illinois has started using a novel method of reminding motorists about deer.
According to Fox News, drivers in Ford County have noticed a deer crossing sign with the text “suicidal deer” installed near the intersection of two rural roads. Describing the deer as “suicidal” may not be all that accurate, but Button Township Highway Commissioner Ron Hilligoss said the sign is already drawing attention, and that is a good thing.
“A lot of people see it,” Hilligoss told the Ford County Record. “If you ask anybody where a deer crossing sign is, they couldn’t tell you, but they know where that one is at.”
Hilligoss is hoping that if the sign sticks in drivers’ memories, it will also remind them that deer are a persistent danger in Ford County. Last year the county recorded 33 deer-related car accidents, and in 2014, the state of Illinois recorded upwards of 15,000 such accidents. Although there are only a handful of fatalities in the Prairie State every year, hundreds of injuries still occur.
“My nephew sent me a picture of one of these signs out in Colorado about six months ago. He texted it to me, and I thought it was really a good thing because it gets your attention,” Hilligoss said. “So we had a Ford County Highway Department meeting and I said, ‘Can you get me these signs?’”
The county purchased four of the signs but only installed one. Hilligoss said he is waiting to see whether the sign will be vandalized or stolen before putting up the others.
Contrary to what the sign says, deer are not actually suicidal. Deer “freeze” in car headlights because they are crepuscular animals, meaning they are primarily active during twilight. Due to this, their eyes are often fully dilated to catch as much light as possible. Being “struck” by headlights effectively blinds them, and deer more often than not will remain still until their eyes adjust. Unfortunately, by the time that happens, many will have already been struck by a car.
Experts advise motorists to avoid swerving to miss the deer when there is other traffic nearby. Hitting another driver or landing in a ditch could be more dangerous than just hitting a deer. Also, flickering your lights may sometimes cause the deer to recover and move out of the way. Remember that deer are more likely to run into traffic during the rut, and the more heavy-set bucks can be especially dangerous since they can become distracted chasing after does. As always, a healthy dose of precaution is the best solution against wandering deer.