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Michigan deer crashes

Special safety tips offered for motorcyclists

October and November are the two most dangerous months in Michigan for deer/vehicle crashes. Vehicle/deer crashes can cause more than just damage to the outside of the vehicle. The 61,486 crashes last year resulted in 1,571 injuries and 10 deaths, according to the Michigan Deer Crash Coalition.

In 2009, all 10 deer crash fatalities involved motorcyclists. That is why the MDCC has developed new safety tips for motorcyclists.

“Motorcyclists are vulnerable to deer crashes as they travel Michigan’s roadways,” said Coalition Chair Lori Conarton of the Insurance Institute of Michigan. “Reducing the number of injuries and fatalities from these types of crashes is a priority for the coalition.”

Motorcyclists should:

* Be alert for deer whenever they ride.  Deer-vehicle crashes happen in urban, suburban and rural areas.

* Slow down. Decreasing speed gives a motorcyclist more time to spot an animal and react.

* Cover the brakes to reduce reaction time.

* Use high beam headlights and additional driving light when possible.

* If riding in a group, spread out riders in a staggered formation. If one rider hits a deer, this will lessen the chance that other riders will be involved.

* Wear protective gear at all times.

In 2009, Michigan experienced an increase the number of total vehicle/deer crashes. According to the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center, there were 61,486 deer/vehicle crashes in 2009, up from the 61,010 crashes reported in 2008.  However, officials note that many crashes also go unreported, so actual crash numbers are much higher.

In 2009, Kent County once again topped the state’s counties in the number of car-deer crashes with 2,164 crashes.  The remaining top nine were Oakland (1,947), Jackson (1,877), Calhoun (1,659), Montcalm (1,641), Lapeer (1,455), Clinton (1,428), Genesee (1,420), Eaton (1,384) and Ottawa (1,300).

All motorists should “think deer” whenever they are behind the wheel, and drive defensively, as if a deer can appear at any moment, because they can! And all motorists should remember to always fasten their safety belts. Safety belts often make the difference in surviving a serious crash.

The MDCC says motorists can help avoid dangerous encounters with deer by heeding the following tips:
* Watch for deer especially at dawn and dusk.
* If you see one deer, approach cautiously, as there may be more out of sight.
* Deer often travel single file, so if you see one cross a road, chances are more are nearby waiting to cross, too. When startled by an approaching vehicle, they can panic and dart out from any direction without warning.
* Be alert all year long, especially on two-lane roads. Watch for deer warning signs. They are placed at known deer-crossing areas and serve as a first alert that deer may be near.
* Slow down when traveling through deer-population areas.

For more information, visit the coalition’s website, http://www.michigandeercrash.org/

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