5 Ways to Minimize Car/Deer Crashes This Year
By: Mike Veenstra
As we in Michigan head into the darker, snowier part of the year, most driving and preparedness advice given tends to involve vehicle condition, specifically tire and engine condition, and emergency supplies lists. And while it is always a good idea to inspect your car before you expect greater performance from it, and having the right supplies can make all the difference in the world in an emergency, there are other risks during the winter besides cold temperatures and snow.
One of these is darkness. In a couple of weekends, Michigan will once again be going off Daylight Savings Time, and it’s going to seem a lot darker all of a sudden. Driving at night is more challenging, particularly in traffic, but in the countryside there are additional dangers lurking: animals. Crepuscular animals, the ones most active during dawn and dusk, don’t understand Daylight Savings Time, and they won’t be adjusting their schedules to accommodate nighttime commute traffic. As a result of this, in October and November, you’ll see many more dead animals in the road: opossums, raccoons, skunks, and deer. It’s the deer drivers most have to look out for because their body mass is so much greater and because they are so much faster, so drivers encountering them have less time to react safely.
In 2012 there were 134 car/deer crashes per day, with most of those occurring in October and November. Those crashes resulted in 1,329 injuries and eight fatalities. Kent County has one of the highest crash rates in the state.
- Be aware of your surroundings particularly when you are driving on roads surrounded by open spaces. Many deer crossings are marked, but deer go where they will. They don’t read road signs.
- Realize that deer travel in groups. If you see one deer, there are very likely more around.
- Use your high beams if you are not driving in traffic. High beam headlights will illuminate deer eyes and give you a better field of vision.
- If you see a deer, brake carefully, but do not swerve into another lane. You are better off hitting the deer than another car head on. A deer in the road may move at the sound of honking, but their behavior can’t be predicted. It’s always better to drive slower when in deer territory.
- If you do hit a deer, do not touch it. Frightened and hurt animals can be very dangerous. Instead call the police, your insurance company, and a tow truck. All of them are more familiar with what to do in this situation than you are likely to be.
The average cost of repairs to a car damaged in a car/deer collision is $2,100 in Michigan. While we at Veenstra’s appreciate the business of Grand Rapidians and West Michiganders, we would like our customers to stay safe and use any extra money for tire and windshield wiper replacements going into this winter season. Please stay aware and stay safe on those roads, and if you’re driving north for Deer Season, good luck!