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 highest months for reported deer-vehicle crashes in Michigan, while the state has seen increases in these accidents during the past two years.
“Car-deer crashes in Michigan cause at least $130 million in damage annually, with an average cost of $2,100 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.”
Last year, there were 61,907 reported car-deer crashes in the state, up from 60,875 reported the previous year. However, the coalition notes that as many as half of all car-deer crashes may not be reported, so actual numbers may be much higher. Last year, 11 motorists lost their lives in car crashes, while another 1,614 persons were injured.
In 2006, 12 motorists were killed and 1,676 were injured in similar crashes.
“Deer are unpredictable and that’s what makes them such a traffic safety threat,” said Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. “Car-deer crashes aren’t limited to rural areas – motorists in suburban and urban areas are also at risk. Your best defense is to stay focused on the road, avoid any distracting activities and always wear a safety belt.”
Kent County once again topped the state’s counties in number of car-deer crashes at 2,071. The remaining top four were Jackson (2,030); Oakland (1,876); Calhoun (1,802); and Ingham (1,689). Oakland County’s Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan K. Barnett -- whose community leads in car-deer crashes in Southeast Michigan -- is among officials who encourage residents to watch for deer while driving.
“These crashes can occur anytime,” Barnett noted, adding that his community had 219 reported car-deer crashes last year, up from 196 in 2006. “Thankfully, we have had no fatalities and only a few injuries due to these crashes. We encourage all motorists to be aware and prepared.”
Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable when involved in collisions with deer. Seven of the 11 traffic fatalities involving deer in 2007 were motorcyclists. In 2006, nine motorcyclists died in deer-vehicle crashes.
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. The state has a 1.75 million-strong deer herd. Most deer are herd animals and frequently travel in single file. If you see one deer cross the road, chances are there are more nearby, noted Penney Melchoir, Department of Natural Resources Field Coordinator.
The Michigan Deer Crash Coalition, which was organized 12 years ago to draw attention to the statewide traffic safety issue, is dedicated to reducing car-deer crashes. The coalition 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 an object, such as a tree or another vehicle. No one wants to see the deer destroyed, but striking the animal is often the safest action.
If a crash with a deer is unavoidable, the coalition recommends drivers:
- DON’T SWERVE!
- Brake firmly.
- Hold onto the steering wheel with both hands.
- Come to a controlled stop.
- Steer the vehicle off the road.
- Be alert all year. Watch for deer especially at dawn and dusk, when deer are most active.
- If you see a deer, approach cautiously, as there may be more out of sight. When startled by an approaching vehicle, deer can panic and dart out from any direction without warning.
- Always slow down when traveling through heavily populated deer areas.
Coalition 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.
(Copies of the MDCC brochure, “Don’t Veer for Deer,” are available free at www.michigan.gov/ohsp
(click on Traffic Safety Materials); fax to 517- 336-2663; call (517) 333-2722; or email firstname.lastname@example.org
. For more information, visit www.semcog.org/MDCC.aspx