Traffic notebook: 14 years of deer crashes

On Thursday evening, The B Square chanced upon two deer grazing in the side yard of the Reformed Presbyterian Church at 1st and Lincoln Streets in Bloomington.

A passerby who was walking her dog was not surprised by the deer—they’re frequent visitors around those parts. Two joggers seemed unimpressed—they ran past without breaking stride.

One of the deer crossed over to nibble some of the presumably greener grass on the other side of the street, but quickly rejoined its companion.

Lincoln Street is one-way north, but the deer did not check for traffic in either direction before crossing mid-block.

Is that an area where drivers often crash into deer? To get a quick answer to that question, The B Square checked into the state of Indiana’s crash datasets, which go back to 2007.

Included in this article is a basic plot of all 1,467 deer-related crashes in Monroe County from 2007 through 2020. (Only those that included latitude/longitude information in the record were plotted.)

Many of the deer crashes show up in unsurprising places—roads with high traffic volume where motorists drive fast:

  • I-69, which runs north-south on the western edge of town
  • SR 46 leading into town from the east (3rd Street) and heading out of town to the west
  • SR 45 leading into town (10th Street) from the east and heading out of town to the west (2nd Street which becomes Bloomfield Road, then SR 45
  • SR 45/46 bypass inside the city limits.
  • SR 446, which runs north-south east of town

Deer crashes along those corridors are not evenly spaced. In some cases, higher concentrations show up in places where a plausible explanation is within arm’s reach.

For example, the plot shows a cluster of deer-involved crashes where the SR 45/46 bypass bends from north-south to east-west. One possible explanation is some close-by open green space in the form of the Indiana University golf course. It’s located on the northeast side of the road—even if it is not indicated on the maps included in this article.

The plot also shows some patterns that might not necessarily be expected. One stretch of Knightridge Road runs north-south, just east of and parallel to the higher-volume and higher-speed SR 446. That part of Knightridge shows a clear cluster of deer crashes—in contrast to the corresponding stretch of SR 446, where there are almost no crashes.

Also not necessarily to be expected are deer crash clusters inside Bloomington city limits.

On the east side of town, 3rd Street stands out as a relatively high-frequency deer crash corridor. Another east-west concentration is visible on Moore’s Pike.

Probably also not necessarily expected are a few one-off deer crashes sprinkled well-inside the central neighborhoods.

Even if deer are not involved in a lot of crashes in those neighborhoods, they seem to be a steady nuisance for residents. That’s based on B Square reader response to one of the photos from this article, which was included in Friday’s emailed morning bulletin.

Among other unflattering terms, deer were described as “large, damaging pests.”

How many deer live inside the city limits? One reader attested to the large population, based on her frequent walks through Elm Heights: “There are many, many deer.”

Photos: Deer at First & Lincoln Bloomington, Indiana March 10, 2022

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