If you’ve lived in West Michigan long, you have realized that the odds of encountering a deer in the road are extremely high. In fact, the state of Michigan ranked 9th overall in the USA for the number of vehicle and deer collisions in 2017 with reports averaging that 1 out of 85 drivers will need to file an insurance claim related to hitting one. So how do you avoid becoming one of the statistics this fall in the greater Grand Rapids area and steer clear of hitting a deer? Follow these safety tips for deer and driving in West Michigan.
What You Need To Know
- Be aware of high-risk deer areas: It’s possible to find deer in urban areas but they’re found most often in rural surroundings. Be alert on the countryside roads we encounter in Wayland, Caledonia and Hastings, paying particular attention to where Deer Crossing warning signs have been placed.
- Be aware of high-risk deer times: While you may encounter deer at any time of the year, understand that Fall is an especially busy time for deer to be moving. This is in part due to the deer rut or mating season which creates males following female deer throughout the terrain. Also, it’s important to note that most deer accidents take place between 5 pm-midnight & 5 am-8 am. Use particular caution while driving at these times, scanning the side of the road often.
- Be aware of the danger: Deer crashes are not only inconvenient, costly and scary, they can also be fatal. Recognize that deer and car collisions result in hundreds of deaths each year and billions of dollars in damage annually, meaning it’s important for drivers to do what they can do to avoid hitting one.
What You Need To Do
- Use your seatbelt: Seatbelts are one of the easiest ways to reduce the severity of most accidents and car/deer crashes are no exception. Be sure to use your safety belt every time you get in your vehicle.
- Slow down: Reducing your speed in highly dense deer areas is one of the most effective ways to avoid hitting one. Driving conservatively not only allows you more time to stop your vehicle if necessary but can reduce the amount of damage done to your vehicle should you collide.
- Give yourself space: Tailgating has been determined as a contributing factor in over 1/3 of all accidents that occur. While it may not help you avoid hitting a deer directly, adding a safe distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you, allows you time to react should they need to brake for one. Additionally, following too closely behind a vehicle that strikes a deer increases the odds of the deer flying over their vehicle and striking yours.
- Watch for glowing eyes: Most animals eyes reflect light and deer are no different. Look for the telltale sign of wildlife on the side of the road by scanning for their glow as you drive.
- Use high beams: Using your high beams while driving in the dark when it doesn’t interfere with other driver’s vision offers you a longer range of visibility and when every second counts, that could be the difference between avoiding a deer and hitting one.
- Watch for more: Deer are pack animals and typically travel in groups. Be alert even if a deer ahead has crossed safely to the other side. Chances are, there are more to follow.
- Use the center lane when available: Although 90% of deer/car accidents happen on two-lane roads, they can also happen on the highway. When possible, use the center lane of the highway to allow more room between a deer on the side of the road and your moving vehicle. That room could make all the difference between an accident and driving on safely.
- Brake firmly, don’t swerve: If you do encounter a deer in the road, it’s important to remember NOT to swerve. Doing so could cause you to lose control of your vehicle and strike another vehicle on the road or a tree on the side of the road. Instead, brake firmly and calmly to avoid or lessen the impact.
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