OAKLAND CITY, Ind. — Deer have caused numerous crashes by running onto southwestern Indiana's new section of Interstate 69 since it opened last month, although supporters are hopeful the new interstate will still be safer than the two-lane highways that dominate the rural area.
A 67-mile section of I-69 opened in mid-November from near Evansville at I-64 to near the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center southwest of Bloomington. Deer have been involved in 24 of the 28 crashes recorded on the highway through last week, state police Capt. David Bursten told WIBC-FM.
State conservation officer Mike Kellner said it would be difficult to completely eradicate such crashes, especially during mating season when deer often chase each other without paying attention to vehicles or other dangers.
"We don't have anywhere around here that's not deer habitat," Kellner told the Princeton Daily Clarion.
Police and others say they aren't surprised by the number of deer-related accidents on the new highway.
C. Larry Rhodes, an independent State Farm agent in Newburgh, said he expected I-69 would be safer from such crashes than Indiana 57, which runs near much the interstate's corridor.
"I-69 has a lot more visibility than Indiana 57 does. You can see deer approaching a lot farther out, and you can take precautions to slow down to try to avoid them in anticipation of the crossing the highway," Rhodes told the Evansville Courier & Press.
The Indiana Department of Transportation built eight drainage passages that are large enough for deer pass beneath the highway that should also curb the number of animal-involved accidents, agency spokeswoman Cher Elliott said.
There shouldn't be more of an issue with deer on the new I-69 section than on any other roads, she said.
"Instead of two-lane narrow road you have a four-lane interstate that has a wider clear zone, even on each side of the shoulder," Elliott said. "One of the main purposes of the project was safety."