Officials warn motorists to beware of deer

By: Mary Beth Almond | C&G Newspapers | Published October 8, 2019

 The city of Rochester Hills has begun placing temporary electronic signs with the message “High Deer Crash Area, Use Caution” in hot spots for deer across the city, like this one on Adams Road, near Dutton Road.

The city of Rochester Hills has begun placing temporary electronic signs with the message “High Deer Crash Area, Use Caution” in hot spots for deer across the city, like this one on Adams Road, near Dutton Road.

File photo by Donna Agusti

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OAKLAND COUNTY — Deer dart across the roadway all year in Michigan, but for the next three months, officials are asking motorists to be extra cautious.

Each year, there are nearly 50,000 deer-car crashes reported in Michigan, according to the Michigan State Police.

With almost 50% of those deer-car crashes occurring in October, November and December, officials are reminding drivers to keep an eye out for deer on the road.

Tricia Kinley, the executive director of the Insurance Alliance of Michigan, said deer are more active in the fall, especially at dawn and dusk, so it’s really important for drivers to keep their eyes peeled for deer.

“In 2018, 1,200 people were injured in car crashes involving deer, making it more important than ever to remain vigilant,” she said in a statement.

In 2018, there were 53,464 vehicle crashes involving deer reported across Michigan, resulting in 1,200 injuries and 14 deaths. In 2017, there were 50,949 deer-car accidents, resulting in 1,112 injuries and 16 deaths.

Last year, Oakland County reported the most deer-vehicle crashes of any county in the state with 1,851 incidents followed by Kent County with 1,837, Jackson County with 1,537, Lapeer County with 1,275, Ottawa County with 1267, Allegan County with 1,160, Genesee County with 1,136, Calhoun County with 1,104, Clinton County with 1,103 and Isabella County with 1,094.

In West Bloomfield, deer-vehicle crashes have been increasing steadily, according to West Bloomfield Deputy Chief Curt Lawson.

“Car-deer accidents in West Bloomfield are quite high, and we have had a steady increase each year,” Lawson explained.

There were 86 reported deer-car crashes in West Bloomfield in 2015, 90 in 2016, 11 in 2017 and 115 in 2018. At press time, Lawson said there have been 86 deer-car crashes in the township so far this year.  

“The northern end of our township is more wooded than our business district, so mid to northern West Bloomfield is where we have the majority of our accidents involving deer,” he said.

To help alert motorists, the West Bloomfield Police Department shares information on safety via social media in the spring and fall, according to Lawson.

Rochester Hills has seen its fair share of car-deer accidents over the years, according to city naturalist Lance DeVoe, who sits on the city’s Deer Management Advisory Committee.

The all-time high was in 2007, with 219 reported accidents. In response, the city of Rochester Hills created the Deer Management Advisory Committee to review deer-related car crash statistics, as well as the city’s annual deer count surveys, and to make recommendations regarding the overpopulation of deer. The committee also works every year to raise awareness of safety, hosts deer gardening seminars and more.

“As a municipality, we have a high incidence of car-deer crashes,” DeVoe said. “The highest we have ever encountered was 219, and we’ve been right around 150 since, which still isn’t good, but it’s better than over 200.”

Although this year’s deer-related crash report shows a slight decrease in incidents over the last year — from 161 in 2017 to 151 in 2018 — Rochester Hills officials are once again reminding drivers to not veer for deer by placing temporary electronic signs with the message “High Deer Crash Area, Use Caution” in deer hot spots across the city through December.

DeVoe said the city’s hot spots include Tienken, Adams, Avon and Rochester roads; Walton Boulevard; and M-59.

“From a safety standpoint, we are hoping to eliminate as many car-deer accidents as possible,” DeVoe said.

About 80% of deer-vehicle crashes occur on two-lane roads between dusk and dawn, according to the Michigan State Police. When startled by an approaching vehicle, deer can panic and dart out from any direction without warning.

DeVoe said drivers should slow down in deer-populated areas because if they spot one deer, chances are there are others nearby.

Flashing high-beam headlights or honking the horn won’t deter deer, so if a crash is unavoidable, officials urge motorists not to swerve.

Lawson said the most serious crashes occur when motorists swerve to avoid a deer and hit another vehicle or a fixed object, or when their vehicle rolls over.

“Obviously, if there is a deer in the road, try to slow down, but don’t veer from your lane,” he said. “People who veer trying to miss the deer end up causing more damage and having serious accidents by hitting a tree or another motorist.”

Instead of veering, officials recommend braking firmly, holding on to the steering wheel, staying in your lane and bringing your vehicle to a controlled stop.

“(If you hit a deer), pull off of the road and immediately get ahold of the police department so we can come out, remove the deer from the center of the road and take an accident report,” Lawson said.

City and state officials also remind motorists to buckle up, as seat belts are their best defense in the event of a crash.

To learn more about deer safety or for information about gardening to deter deer, visit rochesterhills.org/deer or call (248) 656-4673.

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