LANSING (WWJ) - October and November are the two most dangerous months for car accidents involving deer, according to the Michigan Deer Crash Coalition (MDCC).
Deer/vehicle crashes in Michigan declined in 2011 to 53,592 from the 55,867 crashes reported in 2010. Those accidents resulted in 1,464 injuries and eight deaths last year.
However, officials note that many crashes also go unreported, so actual crash numbers are much higher.
In 2011, Kent County once again topped the state’s counties in the number of car-deer 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).
MDCC Chair Lori Conarton said 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.
“Most injuries and deaths occur when motorists veer to avoid the deer. 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,” Conarton said in a release.
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. 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,” said Brent Rudolph, Wildlife Research Specialist – Deer and Elk Program Leader, Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
“Drivers should still use caution, as deer numbers will not be reduced throughout Michigan. 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,” Rudolph continued.
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 at www.michigandeercrash.org.