Published November 7, 2012
Stay alert to avoid car-deer collisions this season
By Robin Ruehlen firstname.lastname@example.org
BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — As the days grow shorter and hunters prepare to take to the woods for firearm season, Bloomfield Township police are reminding residents to stay alert to avoid hitting deer on local roadways.
Although a recent report by the Michigan Deer Crash Coalition shows that deer crashes are on the decline throughout the state by almost 4 percent, Oakland County remains in second place for the most collisions statewide.
Community liaison officer Pete Matejcik said that while he sees a number of car-deer crashes occur in the township throughout the year, November tends to be the worst time for such incidents.
“In the areas of the township where hunting is permitted it gets the deer moving and they start taking unnecessary chances crossing the road to escape the hunters,” he said.
“Before too much longer they will go into the rut, and the bucks will start chasing does and taking chances that they otherwise would not.”
Matejcik noted that while on patrol in a subdivision recently, he “could not believe” the number of deer he saw sitting in the front yards of Bloomfield Township homes.
“They had found some beautiful oak trees that were dropping their acorns, and those deer were in their glory,” he said.
“They are all over Bloomfield Township.”
So what can drivers do to avoid mishaps over the next several weeks? For one, stay alert and stay at peak performance while behind the wheel.
“Stay awake, alert and sober — that’s the No. 1 thing,” he said.
“Fatigue and alcohol slow down your reaction times.”
The second rule of thumb is to remember that where there is one deer, there are almost always more to follow.
“If you see one crossing the road up ahead, you’re going to see another one right behind it. Deer are herd animals, and they’ll follow each other regardless of the dangers,” Matejcik said.
Deer tend to be most active in the early dawn and dusk hours.
“Personally, at nighttime I look for anything along the side of the road that reflects light, because deer eyes reflect very well,” he said.
“Scan the tree line and look for those reflectors. If you see something, slow down immediately.”
According to the MDCC, more than 18 percent of car-deer crashes occur in November.
In 2011 there were 1,736 such crashes reported in Oakland County, followed by 1,536 in Jackson County, 1,429 in Calhoun County and 1,340 in Montcalm County. Kent County remains the state’s highest, with 1,750. The state experienced a total of 53,592 car-deer crashes in 2011, in which eight people were killed and 1,464 were injured.
Motorists should also be aware of posted deer crossing signs, which are located in active areas. Drivers should use high-beam headlamps as much as possible and not rely on supposed deer-repellent items such as car-mounted whistles.
The MDCC advises motorcyclists to wear protective gear at all times and cover the brakes to reduce reaction time. If riding in a group, motorcyclists should spread out in a staggered formation to lessen the chance other riders will be involved if one should strike a deer.
State Transportation Director Kirk Steudle said in a release that drivers should come to a controlled stop, rather than swerve, whenever a deer is in their path.
“Don’t veer for deer or swerve to avoid an animal because it can be more dangerous, and even deadly,” Steudle said.
Matejcik agreed, adding, “It is very important not to swerve because people will overcorrect. When you overcorrect, there’s a good chance you’re going to throw off your vehicle’s center of gravity and end up rolling your car — and now you’re in a far worse situation,” he said.
“Seeing the deer way out is what will prevent the accident in most cases.”
Also, Matejcik advises drivers not hesitate to call the police in the event of an accident.
“Most insurance companies, regardless, want a police report in hand because it makes filing a claim that much easier,” he said.
The MDCC was established in 1996 to mitigate the frequency and severity of vehicle-deer crashes through public information, driver education and research. For more information, visit www.michigandeercrash.org.