Fall is upon us and as hunting season and winter approach, the animals that share space with us are beginning to migrate and move around. This can make driving much more hazardous, especially with fewer daylight driving hours.
In Michigan there are nearly 50,000 reported vehicle-deer crashes every year, and about 80% of these occur on two-lane roads between dusk and dawn. The Michigan State Police website says “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.” One out of every 6 traffic accidents in the state of Michigan in 2018 was caused by a collision with a deer, according to the Michigan State Police.
The greatest risk for vehicle collisions with deer in the fall are during the two hours before and after sunset. So what are some tips to stay safe during this hazardous season for driving?
- Always use caution when driving at dawn or dusk and scan roads and roadsides ahead
- Motorcyclists be especially alert – there is a high fatality rate for motorcyle-deer collisions
- Reduce speed at night and use high beams when possible
- Slow down when approaching deer near the roadside
- If one deer is spotted crossing the road, be alert – others may follow it just moments later
- Be extra attentive when you see the iconic “leaping buck sign” on a roadway, but never forget – deer may appear anywhere at any time
- Never rely solely on devices such as deer whistles mounted on bumpers to deter deer. There is not much evidence they are actually effective
- Your best defense is your own responsible driving behavior and practicing situational awareness
- Be sure all vehicle occupants are wearing safety belts and children are restrained in child safety seats.
- Brake – but do not veer or swerve if a collision is imminent. Swerving increases the risk of hitting another vehicle and/or losing control of your car. Slow down as quickly and safely as you can – your odds for surviving an accident are better when hitting a deer than hitting another vehicle, tree, bridge abutment, signpost, or your vehicle rolling over.