It's never unusual to see deer dashing across highways in western Kansas.
And this time of year, the four-legged creatures' comings and goings become all the more common — and dangerous.
Deer are on the march in Kansas, as their breeding season arrives in October and runs into December. As a result, deer often bound across the highway, startling motorists and threatening those who drive into their path.
Making matters worse, a recent report showed the Sunflower State headed in the wrong direction regarding the risk of deer-related accidents.
A national ranking of states where drivers are most likely to hit a deer saw Kansas jump six spots in the past year, from 25th to 19th.
The report from State Farm listed the odds of a motorist in Kansas hitting a deer in the next 12 months at 1 in 128, worse than last year's 1 in 164 — even though drought has reduced the deer herd in the state.
Such a troubling trend points to a need for Kansas lawmakers and other officials to pursue more strategies to cull the deer population.
Beyond the threat to motorists, deer-related crashes also create a costly problem in vehicle repair and other property damage, as well as law enforcement resources needed to cover the wrecks.
As for staying safe on the road, law enforcement officials acknowledge there's no surefire way to prevent a deer-related accident, but offer ways to reduce the risk.
For one, be aware of areas that pose danger — most are marked by signs — and drive slowly and watch both sides of the road.
Deer often travel in groups. When one crosses the road, there may be others to follow, so motorists should slow down and watch carefully.
When deer do appear, motorists should not swerve to miss them. Swerving can cause motorists to veer into oncoming lanes or roll in ditches, which can be far more dangerous than hitting the deer.
So, until state efforts make greater inroads toward reducing the deer population, motorists should deploy their own best defense against deer encounters: Stay alert and use common sense on the road.