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Dangerous months for car-deer crashes

September 27, 2012
The Daily News

An average of 146 deer/vehicle crashes occur every day in Michigan.

And, deer/vehicle crashes can cause more than just damage to the vehicle. Deer/vehicle crashes resulted in 1,464 injuries and eight deaths last year. The two most dangerous months for this type of crash are this time of year - October and November.

Deer/vehicle crashes in Michigan declined in 2011 to 53,592 from the 55,867 crashes reported in 2010. However, officials note that many crashes also go unreported, so actual crash numbers are much higher.

In 2011 in Wisconsin, there were 18,176 car-deer accidents (an average of nearly 50 per day) including five fatal crashes and 427 car-deer accidents in which there were personal injuries, reports the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

That compares to 16,947 car-deer accidents in Wisconsin in 2010, and 16,338 in 2009.

In 2011, Kent County (home to Grand Rapids) once again topped the state's counties in the number of deer/vehicle crashes with 1,750 crashes.

The remaining top nine were Oakland (1,736), Jackson (1,536), Calhoun (1,429), Montcalm (1,340), Clinton (1,191), Lapeer (1,179), Eaton (1,151), Sanilac (1,128) and Genesee (1,122).

All motorists in Michigan and Wisconsin should 'think deer' whenever they are behind the wheel, and drive defensively, as if a deer can appear at any moment, because they can.

"Most injuries and deaths occur when motorists veer to avoid the deer," said Michigan Deer Crash Coalition (MDCC) Chair Lori Conarton, who represents the Insurance Institute of Michigan.

"So when a deer crash is unavoidable, it is important to have your hands on the steering wheel, slow down and stay in your own lane."

In Michigan, there has been an outbreak of an insect-borne disease which kills deer. However, experts say that motorists shouldn't let the knowledge of the disease distract them from fall driving precautions.

"Since July, outbreaks of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease - a viral disease which causes mortality in deer but does not affect humans or pets - have been confirmed within 24 Michigan counties," said Brent Rudolph, Wildlife Research Specialist and Deer and Elk Program Leader for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

"Effects on deer numbers and therefore the likelihood of being involved in a deer/vehicle collision will be highly localized around areas impacted by the disease," Rudolph said.

"Drivers should still use caution, as deer numbers will not be reduced throughout Michigan," he said. "Even where numbers are lower, deer activity peaks at this time of year. It only takes one deer for a motorist to experience a 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. Be particularly cautious in wooded and agricultural areas where there is little distance between the road and the woods.

- Slow down when traveling through deer-population areas.

- Deer whistles or ultrasonic deer avoidance systems attached to vehicles have never been proven to work by independent studies and may give drivers a false sense of security.

- Wear your safety belt. It is your best defense in any collision.

If a crash is unavoidable:

- Do not swerve; you could lose control and hit another vehicle or object.

- Hold onto the steering wheel with both hands.

- Brake firmly, stay in your lane and bring your vehicle to a controlled stop.

- If you strike a deer, pull safely off the road, turn on your emergency flashers, and notify law enforcement.

- Stay in your vehicle and do not attempt to walk on roadways.

- Report damage as soon as possible to your insurance company. If your car is not drivable, your agent or claims center may be able to save you time and money by having the car towed directly to the repair facility instead of to a temporary storage facility.



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