Jim Rink (313) 336-1513
With the arrival of fall, motorists should be more aware of deer while traveling on Michigan roadways. October and November are two of the most dangerous months in Michigan for car-deer crashes.
“Car-deer crashes in Michigan cause at least $130 million in damage annually, with an average cost of $2,135 per vehicle,” said Michigan Deer Crash Coalition (MDCC) Chair Jack Peet. Recognizing this fact, Governor Jennifer M. Granholm has proclaimed October as “Michigan Car-Deer Crash Safety Awareness Month.”
In 2006, Michigan experienced a 4 percent increase in the number of total car-deer crashes. According to the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center, there were 60,875 deer-vehicle crashes in 2006, up from 58,741 crashes reported in 2005. However, officials note that many crashes also go unreported, so actual crash numbers are much higher. Last year, 12 people lost their lives in deer crashes and another 1,477 were injured.
“To reduce the number of car-deer deaths and injuries, motorists are encouraged to stay aware, awake, alert and sober,” said Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. “Motorists should remember to always fasten their safety belts. Safety belts often make the difference in surviving a serious crash.”
Kent County once again topped the state’s counties in number of car-deer crashes at 2,208. The remaining top 10 were Jackson (2,017); Oakland (1,866); Calhoun (1,817); Montcalm (1,576); Ingham (1,530); Eaton (1,420); Lapeer (1,373); Kalamazoo (1,354); and Clinton (1,265).
“Car-deer crashes can occur at anytime or anywhere,” said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard. “However, motorists need to be extra alert in the fall. Crashes can happen suddenly and instantly. Being aware and prepared is one way to stay safe and minimize harm.”
Although motorists should be aware of deer at all times, 80 percent of all car-deer crashes occur on two-lane roads between dusk and dawn. Deer are herd animals and frequently travel in single file. If you see one deer cross the road, chances are there are more waiting, noted Penney Melchoir, Department of Natural Resources Field Coordinator.
The Michigan Deer Crash Coalition, an organization dedicated to reducing car-deer crashes, reminds drivers that they should not swerve to avoid hitting a deer. Police statistics show that most motorist deaths and injuries occur when drivers swerve to avoid hitting the deer and strike a fixed object, such as a tree or another vehicle. No one wants to see the deer destroyed, says Peet, but striking the animal is often the safest action.
If a crash with a deer is unavoidable, the MDCC recommends drivers:
- DON’T SWERVE!
- Brake firmly.
- Hold onto the steering wheel with both hands.
- Come to a controlled stop.
- Steer your vehicle well off the roadway.
The Michigan Deer Crash Coalition (MDCC) members include: AAA Michigan; Federal Highway Administration; Insurance Institute of Michigan; Kent County Road Commission; Michigan United Conservation Clubs; Michigan Department of Natural Resources; Michigan Department of State; Michigan Department of Transportation; Michigan Sheriffs’ Association; Office of Highway Safety Planning; SEMCOG (Southeast Michigan Council of Governments); State Farm Insurance; and United Parcel Service.