How to Avoid Deer Car Accidents
During the fall and early winter, there are a lot of driving hazards people need to be aware of. Diminished daylight can make people feel drowsy and make it harder to see. Fallen leaves can make roads slippery and dropping temperatures may also create icy spots on the road. And, here in Michigan, there’s another big hazard to watch out for at this time of year: deer.
In the state of Michigan, crashes involving deer are an extremely common occurrence. According to Michigan State Police, 51,103 traffic accidents involving deer were reported in 2020, resulting in 1,400 people being injured and 5 fatalities. Even though that number is high — crashes involving deer represented nearly 5% of all traffic accidents that occurred in Michigan in 2020 — this was actually a decrease compared to 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Why Deer Accidents Increase in the Fall and Winter
Traffic accidents involving deer can easily happen in Michigan at any time of year, but they tend to peak between October and December. That time of year is deer mating season, hunting season, and crop harvest season, all of which can make deer more active. On top of all that, deer are most active at dusk and dawn and, thanks to daylight savings time changes, people are more likely to be driving at those times of day. Between that increase in deer activity and changes in daylight, it’s a perfect storm that inevitably leads to this increase in deer accidents every fall.
How to Prevent Accidents With Deer
Accidents with deer are common, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t be avoided. Here are some tips to help you stay safe:
Simply being aware of your surroundings is one of the most effective ways of preventing an accident with a deer. Of course, many areas have yellow road signs alerting drivers to the fact that deer may be present. But even if a Deer Crossing sign isn’t present, it’s extremely important to be keeping an eye out for them, even if it seems like an area where deer aren’t likely to be or if it’s not dawn or dusk. Ultimately, deer accidents can — and do — happen in suburban and even urban areas, not just rural areas.
Watch for Groups
Deer tend to travel in packs, so when you see one deer, there’s a good chance they aren’t alone. If you see a deer near the road, there are very likely other deer with them. Even if it seems like one deer has safely crossed the road, there’s a chance that another deer could possibly dart out into the road.
Use Your Headlights
Since deer tend to be most active at dawn and dusk, headlights can go a long way in making it easier for you to see deer. Light from headlights can reflect in the eyes of deer, helping you see them even if you didn’t see them otherwise. Go ahead and use your high beams if it’s appropriate to do so, but keep in mind that if you’ve heard the tip about flashing high beams as a way to scare deer away, this may not be effective. Using the horn or whistles also might not be effective ways to scare deer away, either.
Watch Your Speed
If you’re driving in an area where deer are likely to be, watching your speed will help give you more time to react if you see a deer in or near the road. Not only will you have a better chance to stop in time without hitting the deer, damage may be less severe if you do hit the deer.
Don’t Veer for Deer
While it’s often possible to avoid hitting a deer, there may be times when it isn’t. If you find yourself in a situation where colliding with a deer is unpreventable, Michigan State Police recommends a “don’t veer for deer” way of handling the situation. Stay in your lane, brake firmly, and hold the steering wheel straight so that you maintain control of the car. Hitting a deer is definitely not a pleasant experience and it can potentially cause a lot of damage to your car. But cars can be fixed and hitting the deer may actually be the better outcome. Swerving to hit a deer could lead to you hitting a car in another lane or veering off the road and hitting a fixed object like a tree if you lose control of the car.
Contact a Michigan Car Accident Lawyer
Car accidents can be devastating events, regardless of how they occur. When crashes cause injuries, the effects can last for years to come and it’s important to have a car accident lawyer on your side who can help you understand your legal options and advocate for what’s best for you. At Goodwin & Scieszka, you’ll be able to get help from a lawyer highly experienced in handling Michigan car accident cases. Contact us and find out how we can help.
Image: Unsplash / Steven Coffey