‘Doe’ the right thing when deer cross your path

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published September 21, 2015

 Deer tend to travel in herds, so if you see one, there might be others.

Deer tend to travel in herds, so if you see one, there might be others.

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Attentive driving means sharing the road with other vehicles and pedestrians, and around this time of year, it can also mean having to stop for animals like deer.

According to data compiled by insurance company State Farm with the aid of Federal Highway Administration statistics, the most recently tabulated odds of Michigan drivers having a deer-related auto accident are 1 in 97.

Those odds put the state in 10th place nationwide — higher than the overall U.S. odds of 1 in 169 but lower than first-place West Virginia’s with 1 in 44. However, the Michigan odds are about 3.1 percent lower compared to the prior year, the insurer said in its report.

According to State Farm, the statistics included deer, moose and elk together when figuring out the odds, and the most recent stats looked at the period between July 2014 and June 2015 in every state plus the District of Columbia.

Steve Guc, a State Farm agent who operates out of Mount Clemens, said he has dealt with several deer claims, and he even once hit a deer about three years ago in St. Clair County. He said deer accidents could occur anywhere in metro Detroit, including I-696, I-94, Van Dyke Avenue and 16 Mile Road.

“Most of my clients are here in the area,” he said. “There are deer in more places than people would ever imagine, and so you see a lot of deer-car collisions in metropolitan areas, not just in rural areas.”

According to State Farm, the most frequent month for Michigan collisions was November, followed by October and December.

“This is the time of year they’re starting to move more. Typically, early morning and late evening are the most visible times they’re moving,” Guc added.

Guc said a deer-vehicle collision is considered to be a comprehensive claim, so it’s not an at-fault accident. But in its release, State Farm said a deer collision can be costly — the average price tag per claim is $4,135 nationally — and the accidents can also cause injuries to occupants inside the vehicle.

State Farm recommends being careful when driving in known areas where deer travel. It also advises people to scan the road for deer while driving and to wear a seat belt at all times.

According to Melody Kindraka, spokeswoman from the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, Michigan had around 45,690 motor vehicle deer crashes in 2014, which made up around 15 percent of all the crashes. Those accidents injured 1,072 people and killed six — all six being motorcyclists, she said.

“Vehicle-deer crashes can occur year-round, but they’re most expected in the spring and fall and at dawn and dusk,” Kindraka said. “Deer tend to travel in herds, so if you see one, there might be others.”

To avoid collisions with other cars or hazards, Kindraka said drivers shouldn’t swerve out of the lane if a deer enters their path.

“Please brake firmly and hold on the steering wheel until you can bring it to a complete stop, and steer off the roadway if you’ve hit a deer,” she said.

Learn more about State Farm by visiting www.statefarm.com, or call Steve Guc’s office at (586) 469-6400. Find out more about the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning by visiting www.michigan.gov/ohsp.

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