A motorist was killed Sunday evening on I-35 near the Osage-Franklin county line after the vehicle he was driving struck a deer and the driver left his vehicle.
Law enforcement officials called the death “a tragic accident” and pointed out how dangerous deer-vehicle collisions can be this time of year when a car becomes disabled in the roadway after dark.
Travis M. Sanders, 23, Lawrence, was driving a 1995 Toyota northbound on I-35 Sunday evening near milepost 163 in Osage County when the vehicle struck a deer, according to a Kansas Highway Patrol report. Sanders then exited the vehicle, leaving it partially in the left lane and partially in the median.
A second vehicle, a 2006 Jeep driven by Clayton Richardson, 21, Leawood, was driving northbound on I-35 near milepost 163 behind a third vehicle. When the third vehicle moved to the right lane to avoid the wreck, according to the report, Richardson saw the wreck and attempted to avoid it by entering the median, where his vehicle struck Sanders, who was outside his Toyota.
Sanders was pronounced dead at the scene.
Richardson and a passenger, Kayla Cowell, 22, Leawood, both of whom were wearing seat belts, were not injured, according to the report.
Laurie Dunn, Osage County sheriff, said her office works a lot of deer-vehicle collisions at this time of year.
“If you hit a deer, and your vehicle is not disabled, the best thing to do is to move the vehicle as far off the road as possible, put on your hazard lights, and immediately call  for help,” Dunn said. “Always carry a flashlight in your vehicle.”
Calling Sanders’ death a tragedy, Dunn said there is no easy answer when deciding whether or not motorists should exit their vehicles.
“Sometimes, in these high-impact collisions when the deer takes out the vehicle’s radiator or motor, it’s not possible for the driver to move the vehicle off the roadway,” Dunn said. “A driver has to make an assessment of their situation.”
If a driver decides to exit the vehicle, Dunn said, the motorist and any passengers should always exit the vehicle from the passenger side of the car, away from the lanes of traffic. Stay out of the median and get as far away from the vehicle as possible on the side farthest from the lanes of traffic, she said.