As the days get shorter and temperatures get cooler, the Insurance Alliance of Michigan (IAM) is warning drivers to be on the lookout for deer, especially during dusk and dawn when deer are most active.
In 2019, 1,429 people were injured, and 12 people were killed in 55,531 crashes involving deer in Michigan. That’s up from 2018, when 53,464 vehicle crashes involving deer were reported resulting in 1,200 injuries and 14 deaths.
“As driving habits return to pre-pandemic levels data has shown an increase in more serious crashes, which is why it’s important for drivers to keep their eyes peeled for deer this fall,” said Erin McDonough, executive director of the Insurance Alliance of Michigan. “National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows fatality rates increased by 30% during COVID-19 lockdowns even though fewer cars were on the road, which means drivers were taking more risks like speeding, not wearing safety belts and driving under the influence. Adding deer to the mix means Michigan drivers need to be even more diligent.”
According to data from the Michigan State Police, nearly a quarter of crashes happened between 6 and 9 p.m. and six of the 14 fatalities happened during that same stretch in the evening.
The counties with the most reported vehicle crashes involving deer in 2019 were:
Oakland County (1,928)
Kent County (1,684)
Jackson County (1,630)
Lapeer County (1,394)
Ottawa County (1,288)
Sanilac County (1,226)
Genesee County (1,212)
Allegan County (1,210)
Calhoun County (1,195)
Clinton County (1,174)
“Deer travel in groups, so it’s critical to remember that if you see one near the side of the road or in a field nearby there’s a good chance more aren’t far off,” McDonough said. “Deer can dart out in front of cars without warning and are easily startled, which makes it hard to predict which direction they’ll run and when. That’s why you have to be prepared.”
IAM recommends the following safety tips:
Watch for deer, especially at dawn and dusk, when they are most active. If you see one deer, approach cautiously, as there may be more out of sight.
Deer often travel single file, so if you see one cross a road it’s likely more are nearby waiting to cross. When startled by an approaching vehicle, deer can panic and dart out from any direction.
Slow down when traveling through deer-populated areas.
Always wear your seat belt.
If a crash with a deer is unavoidable, don’t swerve. Instead, brake firmly, hold onto the steering wheel with both hands, come to a controlled stop and then proceed to steer your vehicle off the roadway.