Body shops gear up for car-deer crashes

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Nico Savidge
Monday, October 7, 2013

JANESVILLE—After a warm September and a mild start to October, Mike Buggs' Janesville body shop hasn't been too busy with cars ailing from run-ins with deer.

Give it a few more weeks, though, and a couple cold nights, and that will change.

“Business picks up,” said Buggs, who owns City CARSTAR on North Locust Street. “We'll start seeing an increase in deer hits.”

As deer mating season begins this fall, Buggs is getting ready for a trickle of cars that need repairs after hitting deer to turn into a steady stream.

“When you get into October and November, you can start seeing a few a week,” Buggs said.

These fall months are marked by a sharp increase in the number of car-deer crashes, state Department of Transportation statistics show, from fewer than 800 in August last year to well over 4,000 in November.

It's a trend that has authorities spreading the word to drivers, warning them to be especially diligent about deer on the road—so they can avoid having to see a guy like Buggs.

“As the deer get more active, drivers need to keep that in the back of their minds,” Sgt. Ryan Chaffee of the Wisconsin State Patrol said.

The risk is highest at dawn and dusk as deer move between bedding and feeding areas, according to a news release from the Department of Transportation.

Mating season also means the deer are “distracted in other ways,” Chaffee said, paying even less attention to roads and cars.

“More diligence on our part” is necessary, he said.

For drivers, that means slowing down and watching for deer.

“Reduce their speeds, keep a good scan out, definitely avoid any distractions that you may have in your vehicle,” Chaffee said.

Should you see a deer on the side of the road, the Department of Transportation recommends slowing down and honking a long blast with your horn to scare the deer away, while keeping an eye out for others.

And if there's one in your path, try to stop but make sure to keep control of your car.

“Definitely don't try to swerve—things can get out of hand when you try to swerve,” Chaffee said.

If you hit a deer and your car is still drivable, Chaffee said, you should pull over to a safe spot out of the roadway and call police.

Those unlucky drivers can expect to pay a steep price, Buggs said.

Costs vary widely depending on the extent of damage the deer might cause and how expensive the body work is, but the average price to repair a car hit by deer at Buggs' shop last year was about $3,000, he said. A pricier car that really gets dinged might run much higher, he said.

While that's good news for Buggs, drivers probably won't be so happy.

“There's not many customers that like walking through my front door,” he said.

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