State officials are asking drivers to be extra vigilant while driving in rural areas as deer become more active in the coming months. 

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois State Police said deer are more active and less attentive during mating season and hunting season.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Rachel Torbert said drivers should pay attention to the sides of the road.

“Like any other animal, when a deer is looking up or moving, you can see the reflection in their eyes and that will help you spot them,” she said.

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Because deer tend to travel in groups “if one crosses the road, there maybe two or three more” close behind, Torbert said. Drivers should pay attention to deer crossing signs. The signs indicate places were deer commonly cross the road.

Deer are most active at dawn and dusk. More than 40% of crashes involving deer in Illinois occurred in October, November and December. November has the highest total of those months. Most collisions happen in rural areas, which account for nearly 90% of all crashes involving deer.

The Illinois State Police advises drivers to pull off to the shoulder and turn on the vehicle's hazard lights if they hit a deer.

State Police Public Information Officer Mindy Carroll said the state’s Move Over law requires other drivers to slow down and move over if possible when a vehicle is pulled off to the side of the roadway with hazard lights activated.

Carroll also said that if no one was injured in the crash and the area is not safe, drivers should get to a safe place and then call in the information to the police.

There were more than 15,000 accidents involving cars and deer reported in Illinois last year, resulting in 630 injuries and eight deaths.

IDNR recommends the following safe-driving tips during deer mating season:

• Be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to deer crossing signs.

• Scan the sides of the road for eye shine – the reflection of headlights in the eyes.

• Slow down if you see deer. They travel in groups, so more are likely nearby.

• Prepare for the unexpected. Deer can stop in the middle of the road or double back.

• If a collision is inevitable, try to glance the vehicle off the deer and avoid swerving into the opposite lanes of traffic.

The top 10 Illinois counties for crashes involving deer in 2018 were:

1. Cook: 476

2. Peoria: 391

3. Madison: 377

4. Will: 374

5. Sangamon: 360

6. Fulton: 331

7. Williamson: 315

8. Rock Island: 310

9. McHenry: 308

10. Kane: 307

(Copyright WBGZ Radio / www.AltonDailyNews.com)