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Don’t veer when the deer won’t clear

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published October 24, 2017

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Deer season may be making the animals restless in Michigan, but it also is a time for drivers to be wary of the wildlife, according to state and county officials.

According to the Michigan State Police’s website, deer crashes happen all year, but more prominently in the fall and spring. They also most commonly happen between dusk and dawn on two-lane roads, the website stated. 

According to statistics from the Michigan Deer Crash Coalition, 46,870 vehicle-deer crashes were reported in Michigan in 2016, killing 14 people and injuring 1,240. In 2016, Oakland County once again had the highest number of reported deer crashes among the state’s counties with 1,847. Macomb County only had 585. 

Craig Bryson, spokesman for the Road Commission for Oakland County, attributed the proliferation of deer crashes in Oakland County to a few factors. He said the county has a healthy deer population because less hunting occurs there, and with no predators, the suburban environment offers plenty of cover and feeding opportunities.

“The mating season for the deer is in the fall, so the bucks are chasing the does around,” he added. “So they’re a lot more active. They’re a lot more likely to dart out into traffic.”

Bryson recommended the “Don’t Veer for Deer” approach, in which drivers try to bring the car to a quick, controlled stop when a deer approaches — without skidding or trying to suddenly swerve into a neighboring lane.

“They either swerve into incoming traffic, or they swerve off the road, and that’s potentially dangerous,” he said. “It’s far better to hit a deer than another car.”

Lori Conarton, communications director at the Insurance Alliance of Michigan, said deer crashes are significant in Michigan, and it impacts what residents pay for insurance.

She said her group works hard to remind drivers to be very cautious on the roadways this time of year, particularly October through December.

“Not all deer crashes can be avoided, but if it appears you’re going to be in a collision with a deer, slow down, brake, hold onto the steering wheel and stay in your lane,” she said. “It’s also important to wear your safety belt as well.” 

Conarton also said deer mating season sometimes makes deer move unpredictably, but the animals tend to follow certain behavior patterns. 

“If you see one deer, it usually means there will be more,” she said. “If one passes in front of you, watch for more to come, because they usually go in groups.”

Find out more about the Road Commission for Oakland County by visiting www.rcocweb.org or by calling (248) 645-2000. Find out more about the Insurance Alliance of Michigan by visiting www.iiminfo.org. For the Michigan Deer Crash Coalition, visit www.michigandeercrash.com.

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