2017-10-15 / Editorial

Oh deer! County in top three for accidents in fall

The editorial staff at The County Press has a constant companion in the newsroom that delivers us a steady flow of news and information we regularly share with our readers. That source is an emergency band scanner that monitors the radio traffic at Lapeer County Central Dispatch.

Now that it’s mid-October there’s an increased incidence of vehicle-deer collisions, in all corners of Lapeer County — even in the cities.

Thursday afternoon there was a report of vehicle-deer collision at DeMille and Harrison in the city of Lapeer. This accident occurred near the NCG Cinemas in the heart of the city. There have been other vehicle-deer accidents in the city already this fall as deer are again on the move as it’s mating season and farmers are also stirring them from fields as they bring in the fall harvest.

While the state’s deer are most active in spring and fall, vehicle-deer crashes are a year-round problem. Each year, there are nearly 50,000 reported vehicle-deer crashes in Michigan. About 80 percent of these crashes occur on two-lane roads between dusk and dawn. 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.

There’s a joke in Lapeer County that there are two kinds of motorists — those who have hit a deer, and those who are going to strike one. It’s just a matter of time.

As we enter the three most dangerous months for vehicle-deer accidents crashes in Michigan — October, November and December — motorists should be aware that crashes can cause more than just damage to your vehicle. Vehicle-deer crashes in Michigan resulted in 1,240 injuries and 14 deaths in 2016. Nine of the fatalities were to motorcyclists, including here in Lapeer County.

The Insurance Alliance of Michigan tracks the numbers. In Michigan, there is an average of 128 vehicle-deer crashes each day. Although reported deer/vehicle crashes in Michigan declined in 2016 to 46,870 from the 47,001 crashes reported in 2015, many crashes also go unreported, so actual crash numbers are much higher.

In 2016, Oakland County had the most vehicle deer crashes with 1,847 crashes. The remaining top nine were Kent (1,481), Lapeer (1,308), Jackson (1,254), Sanilac (1,119), Ottawa (1,116), Ingham (1,096), Calhoun (1,056), Genesee (1,000), Eaton (998) and Isabella (980).

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.

The state has a 1.75 million-strong deer herd. Deer frequently travel in groups. If you see one deer cross the road, chances are there are more nearby.

The Michigan Deer Crash Coalition recommends the following safety tips:

• Watch for deer especially at dawn and dusk. They are most active then, especially during the current fall mating season. If you see one deer, approach cautiously, as there are likely 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 extra alert, 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.

• Don’t rely on gimmicks, like flashing your high-beam headlights or honking your horn to deter deer.

• If a crash with a deer is imminent, don’t swerve, brake firmly, hold onto the steering wheel with both hands, come to a controlled stop and steer your vehicle well off the roadway. Turn on your emergency flashers, and be cautious of other traffic if you exit your vehicle.

• Report the crash to the nearest police agency and your insurance company.

Remember to buckle up, as seat belts are motorists’ best defense in the event of a crash. Let’s be careful out there, and with any luck you won’t become another vehicle-deer statistic.

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