You see them everywhere this time of year—at least it seems that way. And for good reason: they are everywhere. Kent County is number one in the state again for car-deer crashes, with 1,976 crashes.
According to the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center, there were 55,867 deer/vehicle crashes in 2010, down from the 61,486 crashes reported in 2009. However, officials note that many crashes also go unreported, so actual crash numbers are much higher.
Two of the most dangerous months in Michigan for deer/vehicle crashes are October and November. Vehicle/deer crashes can cause more than just damage to the vehicle. The 55,867 crashes last year resulted in 1,277 injuries and 11 deaths.
While Kent County led in the number of crashes, the remaining top nine were Oakland (1,836), Jackson (1,779), Calhoun (1,618), Lapeer (1,321), Montcalm (1,319), Genesee (1,295), Clinton (1,267), Sanilac (1,275) and Eaton (1,220). 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!
“It is important to stay in your lane and don’t swerve when you see a deer. Most injuries and deaths occur when motorists veer to avoid the deer,” said Michigan Deer Crash Coalition Chair Lori Conarton, who represents the Insurance Institute of Michigan. “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.
In 2010, eight of the 11 fatal deer crashes involved motorcyclists. That is why the Michigan Deer Crash Coalition has developed safety tips for motorcyclists. 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.