2018-10-17 / Editorial

Don’t swerve to avoid a deer

The firearm deer season for whitetail deer doesn’t start until Nov. 15 in Michigan, but already some Lapeer County residents have gotten a deer — and they didn’t even have to leave the comfort for their vehicle for the woods, a tree stand or the edge of a farm field.

Depending on whose statistics you read, of Michigan’s 83 counties Lapeer County every year ranks as the county that either has the third or fourth highest number of vehicle deer collisions.

Last year in Lapeer County, there were approximately 1,300 vehicle-deer collisions — probably many more because those are just the ones reported to police or local insurance agents. Many other drivers smack a deer in their daily commute this time of year, but because their vehicle could still be driven or they didn’t want to file an insurance claim we may never know the true number. On Monday, a County Press employee on the way to work struck a deer with her brand new vehicle on M-24. Luckily she wasn’t injured and the car was not severely damaged. She was able to continue on to work, but her morning commute incident sparked the discussion in the office of how many people have struck a deer in their lifetime with a vehicle. Most have at least once, and a few have struck a deer two or three times.

That’s not unusual. In fact, the local saying goes if you haven’t yet struck a deer in your vehicle count yourself lucky. But don’t worry, you will. It’s just a matter of time.

It started in late September, and continues with each subsequent edition of The County Press that readers will notice more and more vehicle-deer collisions in our Police Blotter (see page 2A).

According to 2016 figures collected by the Michigan State Police, the most vehicle-deer crashes in Lapeer County occurred in Lapeer Township (141), followed by Imlay Township (93), Metamora Township (91), Attica Township (86) and Oregon Township with 84 crashes. If you live in the city of Lapeer and think you’re safe from hitting a deer, think again. In 2016, there were 37 vehicle deer crashes reported in Lapeer, while in Imlay City there were seven and in Almont, five.

No matter where you drive, be on guard at all times. The state has about 1.75 million deer, many that live in Lapeer County that make this time of year particularly treacherous, especially for young and inexperienced drivers.

Vehicle-deer collisions are dangerous, scary and expensive. Last year according to the Michigan Deer Crash Coalition there were 46,870 crashes in our state. Of the 14 people killed by Michigan deer accidents in 2016, 12 were males between the ages of 25 and 64 and nine were motorcyclists. 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.

According to the Michigan State Police, a vehicle-deer crash occurs in the state once every 9.5 minutes and results in about $130 million in damages each year.

Katie Keen, a Dept. of Natural Resources outdoor wildlife technician, notes that deer are more visible in October and November when they are “in rut‘ and involved in chasing and mating. Deer usually travel in groups and move in single file, so if a motorist sees one deer crossing a road, there is a good chance other deer will follow.

Here are some tips offered by police and emergency first responders to avoid a crash:

• Stay aware, awake, and sober.

• Signs are placed at known deer crossing areas to alert you of the possible presence of deer.

• Be alert for deer, especially at dawn and dusk. If you see one, slow down.

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

If a crash is unavoidable:

• Don’t swerve. Brake firmly, hold onto the steering wheel, and bring your vehicle to a controlled stop.

• Pull off the road, 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.

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