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Avoid Bambi: She Can Be a Killer

by Lisa Diggs

I’ve been traveling Hines Drive, near Detroit, most of my life, and have never seen a deer, so I suppose that can lull one into complacency. It wasn’t even early morning hours when Bambi leapt from the woods right toward the road in front of me. She stopped just short of the impending danger, her head lunging forward for a moment as her body tried desperately to hold its position.

Whenever I take to a Michigan highway, I’m prepared to keep an eye out for deer, but I must confess I don’t always think about it in cities or on roads near my home that I drive all the time. Yet, I got a big awakening last week, thanks to that lucky break.

We all need to be extra diligent at this time of year, because it is deer mating season, commonly known as the rut. The rut is the time when white-tailed deer, especially bucks, are more active and less cautious than usual. This makes them easier to hunt, as well as more susceptible to being hit by motor vehicles.

According to the Michigan Deer Crash Coalition, there were 53,592 vehicle-deer crashes in the state in 2011.  Historically, as many as half of vehicle-deer crashes go unreported, so actual numbers may be much higher. Last year, 8 motorists lost their lives in vehicle-deer crashes in Michigan, while another 1,464 persons were injured. In just our state alone, vehicle-deer crashes cost $130 million per year. 

“Deer hunting season in Michigan is among our most widely observed outdoor traditions,” said Kurt Dettmer, vice president and chief marketing officer for Fremont Insurance. “Deer are an important resource for the state. At the same time, between expanding populations and the encroachment of humans into the deer’s natural habitat, they’ve become a serious safety hazard for Michigan drivers.”

Fremont Insurance offers these tips to help you stay safe:

  • Car-deer crashes occur all year, but are more likely during spring and fall, and at dusk and dawn so drivers should take extra precautions during these times
  • Pay attention to deer crossing and speed limit signs. Deer are creatures of habit and signs are installed at known deer crossing areas to alert you
  • Be aware that deer are herd animals, and frequently travel single file. If you see one whitetail, watch for others
  • Stay aware, awake, and sober
  • ALWAYS wear a safety belt. It is your best defense against injury in any roadway crash
  • Multiple independent studies have found that “Deer whistles” are not effective at warding off deer so even if you have one, remain vigilant

In the unfortunate event that a crash is unavoidable, Fremont Insurance offers this advice to drivers: 

  • Don’t swerve. Brake firmly, stay in your lane, hold onto the steering wheel, and bring your vehicle to a controlled stop
  • Pull off the road.  Turn on your emergency flashers and be cautious of other traffic if you leave your vehicle
  • Don't try to remove a deer from a roadway unless you're convinced it is dead.  A wounded deer can cause serious injuries. 
  • Report the crash to local police and your insurance agent

Spotting deer is one of the great joys of living in Michigan, but if you get really good at it, someday it may even save your life.

 


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