With Michigan’s unofficial holiday, opening day of rifle season fast approaching, it seemed like a good opportunity to review the road hazards caused by increased deer activity at this time of year. While vehicle vs. deer accidents are a year round hazard, this time of the year is particularly dangerous. According to the Michigan State Police, the deer population numbers about two million, and each year there are nearly 50,000 reported vehicle vs. deer accidents in Michigan alone. To make matters worse, 80% of these accidents occur at dawn and dusk. That means your chances of encountering a deer are even greater during the morning and evening rush hour where our focus is often set on getting to work or back home.
The real question is, can vehicle vs. deer accidents be prevented? In all honesty, there are no guarantees. But with some safe, common sense driving strategies, you can decrease your odds of tangling with a deer. Of course, all drivers know you should always wear your seat belt, drive the speed limit, use your bright lights in rural areas, stay alert while driving and never drive distracted (put those phones away!). However, understanding the behavior of deer is one way you may steer clear of an unexpected deer. Here are a few things you should know:
- As stated above, deer are most active during the times of sunset to midnight and shortly before and after sunrise. Be alert especially when driving during these times!
- Hunting season runs from October to December and the act of hunting can cause the deer to move unpredictably.
- November 13th is the height of the deer rut season. During the rut, male deer chase female deer, increasing their unpredictable behavior.
- Deer often travel together, so if you narrowly avoid one deer, watch out, another is likely close by!
- Of course, a deer can cross anywhere, but when a Deer Crossing Zone sign is posted take heed. They are there to alert drivers that the area is a high traffic area for deer.
- Deer like to eat the winter salt on the side of the roads, increasing the risk of a collision. If you notice a deer on the side of the road, slow down to help prevent an accident.
Michigan State Police warn drivers to not aggressively swerve if an accident with a deer is unavoidable. This type of maneuvered typically ends with the driver crashing into a tree, the side rail or another vehicle, which is likely much more dangerous than hitting the deer.
While there is a lot of advice out there regarding methods to avoid meeting a deer by accident, safe common sense driving seems to win out. Honking your horn may scare a deer out of the road, but experts warn that the hood whistles or other devices designed to scare off deer are lacking scientific proof that they are helpful, and some suggest that they are a gimmick that could cause more trouble than good.
Whether you are a hunter, a hunter’s widow or just a person trying to get to work on Friday, November 15th, please follow this Sage advice and travel safe!
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