ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — As more hunters hit the woods, more deer are running into Stateline roads.
That means with the start of the 2022 Illinois bowhunting season, deer-versus-car collisions are starting to see an uptick.
Tina Johnson, owner of Alpine Body Shop in Rockford, said she’s already seen a handful of cars that have collided with deer since the hunting season began Oct. 1.
Most of the cracked-up cars Johnson has seen so far have had frontend damage that can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 to fix. But she said it doesn’t take much for that cost to go up.
“Especially if it hits the bumper sensor area,” Johnson said. “The sensors and possibly the airbags will go off. If the airbag system deploys, that can be anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000.”
Johnson said when Illinois hunters are in the woods, local collision shops will each see an average of about 10 cars that hit deer during the three-month season.
Rockford State Farm Insurance Agent Brian Boyer insures about 5,000 Stateline drivers and processes about 300 deer-related claims each year. He said most of the accidents happen on the outskirts of the city, when deer are active during peak hunting times.
“Early morning and dusk is when they’re running,” Boyer said. “We do have a lot of deer north of town and certainly west. They’re not as many east but south, going down Route 2, we get deer running around there. Deer season spooks them, and they’re out there looking for food.”
According to research done by State Farm, Illinois ranks fourth in the nation for animal-collision claims. The company says that between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022, Illinois drivers submitted a total of 21,891 claims, and that most of those claims involved deer.
State Farm says drivers are most likely to collide with whitetails in October, November, and December. The state’s hunting seasons begin Oct. 1 and run through Jan, 15.
Boyer said the best way to avoid a crash is to slow down on country roads, especially during early morning commutes and at dusk. He also recommends the use of “deer whistles” to reduce the number of crashes.
Deer whistles are small plastic devices that stick to a car’s bumper. They create a high-pitched hiss only deer can hear when wind passes through them. The sound deters deer from jumping into traffic.
Stores sell deer whistles for about $10, a small price, Boyer says, to avoid a totaled vehicle or potential injuries.
“If you hit a big buck, it can take out a whole front end,” he said.
Other tips to avoid crashes include driving with high beams on at night and being on the lookout in common deer crossing zones.
Drivers should also avoid swerving to miss deer, Boyer said. Instead, he says braking firmly while staying on the road is the safest way to avoid a serious crash.