Three killed after deer causes car crash on toll road
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – A deer is responsible for a deadly crash on the Indiana Toll Road Sunday night.
Police say the driver lost control of their SUV after hitting the animal, crossed into the eastbound lane and crashed into a pickup truck.
Former University of Nebraska football player Mark Pelini and Jillian Maria—both inside the SUV—were killed, along with Jane Beecher of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who was riding in the front seat of the pickup truck.
The driver and the other passenger in the pickup, David Taylor and Christopher Taylor, also both from Harrisburg, were both rushed to Beacon Memorial Hospital, where they were treated for “serious injuries.”
According to Sgt. Ted Bohner, with the Indiana State Police, these kinds of accidents are all too common this time of year.
“This, obviously is the absolute worst case scenario,” said Sgt. Bohner. “It’s the rut, for deer, which is the mating season, as well this time of year, it’s when farmers are getting into the fields, where they bed down or feed, so it’s pushing them out of the fields and making them quite active as well.”
Joe Caudell, with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, said that deer activity, unfortunately, coincides with when drivers are most active on the road.
He said “It’s those times of days when we’re driving to work and driving home from work. That dawn period and that dusk period is when a lot of times deer are out and moving around for food, and that’s also when bucks are out looking for does. Really, that time when we’re on the road becomes the most risky.”
A video captured by a Michigan State Police trooper showed a small herd of deer running in front of traffic—one jumped clear over the sedan in front of them—while the trooper had to quickly brake to avoid hitting another.
The Indiana DNR’s Annual Deer Report, using data from 2015 through to 2020, shows a sharp increase in deer related car accidents, going from just over 500 accidents in the months of August and September to over 3,000 in the Fall months.
Experts said there’s not much that can be done to keep deer from running out in front of traffic. Instead, they urge drivers to be more aware and alert to avoid accidents.
“When possible, if you can have your high-beams on, because the eyes of a deer will reflect that light, you can see that,” said Sgt. Bohner. “And just be aware, watching and scanning as you’re driving. And if you see one deer, there’s probably more there because they often travel together.”
Caudell added that if drivers routinely see a deer near a certain spot—they might live nearby.
“So really, those places you see a deer constantly, that’s a good place to make sure you’re being extra vigilant,” he said.
Sgt. Bohner also pointed out that drivers should avoid swerving, even if it does mean they hit a deer, because swerving can lead to a much worse accident, when hitting a deer is largely survivable.