Each year, there are nearly 50,000 reported vehicle-deer crashes in Michigan, ranging from simple fender benders to totaling a vehicle. Deer-auto accidents can also result in serious injuries and death to drivers and passengers. The most serious accidents occur when drivers swerve to miss a deer, hitting another vehicle or fixed object such as a tree or guardrail, or losing control of their car.
Most deer-related accidents take place in October and November, and occur between dusk and dawn because deer are more hidden from the driver’s sight, and vehicle headlights can disorient deer causing them to run in front of, or into a moving vehicle. When winter is in full force, deer will be out in search of food. While drivers may not be able to totally eliminate all encounters with deer, here are a few tips to minimize the risks of an accident, save lives, and eliminate the need for costly vehicle repairs.
- Always keep a close eye on the roadways and the side of the roads, especially at dawn and dusk. They often feed on the grass along the road. If you see a deer, slow down; do not brake sharply.
- Pay attention to “deer crossing” signs. Be especially watchful in areas near woods and water. If you see one deer, there are probably more nearby because deer typically travel in a single file and not alone.
- Be mindful that when deer are startled by an approaching vehicle, they often panic and dart out from any direction without warning.
- Do not swerve or slam on your brakes to avoid a deer. Doing so, puts you and others in far more serious danger than you would by staying in your lane and hitting the deer. If you think you have time to avoid hitting a deer, reduce speed, tap the brakes to warn drivers behind you, and sound your horn. A typical whitetail deer in Michigan weighs around 200lbs. A typical car weighs over 3,000lbs. In a contest between a car and a deer, the car will win. If you don’t have time to safely slow down and avoid hitting the deer, hit the deer. If you can hit an animal at an angle, there is a greater chance that it will spin away from the path of your vehicle after impact
- Use high beam for greater visibility whenever it’s safe to do so. This will help you see deer far in advance and give you time to brake safely.
- On multi-lane roadways, drive in the center-most lane to give you the maximum time to respond to deer that enter the roadway.
- Wear your seat belt at all times. Reports show that 60% of fatal accidents with deer were the result of people not wearing a seatbelt.
Even the safest, most alert drivers can be in an auto accident. If an accident with a deer is unavoidable:
- Brake firmly, 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 exit your vehicle.
- If anyone is injured, call 911 for assistance.
- If no one is injured call the local or state police especially if the deer is still on the road or lying in a place that is dangerous to other drivers.
- Do not touch the deer. It may not be dead and injured deer can be dangerous.
- Report the accident to your insurance company.
If you or a passenger was injured due to an auto-deer accident, injured parties can recover medical costs and damages. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand their rights. Because insurance companies know this, they will usually deny and delay claims and attempt to settle for much less. An experienced auto accident attorney can ensure you get the maximum value for your claim.
Deer season is upon us. Lawsuit Financial urges everyone to devote your full attention to the road and follow all driving laws, for your safety and others.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.