Car crash data reveals most likely month, time of day to hit a deer in Michigan

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A deer crosses Bronson Boulevard in Kalamazoo, Michigan. (WWMT/File)

With deer hunting season in full swing, this time of year also brings an increased risk of vehicle-deer crashes on Michigan roads.

More vehicle-deer crashes occurred in November across the state than any other month in 2019, according to data released by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, a division of the Michigan State Police.

With more deer on the move during the fall in large part due to their mating season, it's no surprise almost half of all deer crashes took place during the last quarter of the year.

"Bucks are literally chasing does right now in hopes of reproducing, and so they tend to motivate the movement even more so," Rachel Leightner, Wildlife Outreach Coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said. "And that’s usually why we see an increase in deer-vehicle collisions right now."

It's not only the rut causing deer to be more active. "There is high pressure in the woods causing deer to move. Even the smell of a hunter will cause a deer to flee an area, let alone a gunshot will cause multiple deer to flee in multiple ways, and so there’s a lot of factors in deer movement right now," Leightner said.

In 2019, Michigan had 55,531 motor vehicle-deer crashes, which made up 17.7% of the total crashes in Michigan.

Of the top 10 counties with vehicle-deer crashes across the state, four were in the News Channel 3 viewing area. The top 10 included:

  1. Oakland - 1,928
  2. Kent - 1,684
  3. Jackson - 1,630
  4. Lapeer - 1,394
  5. Ottawa - 1,288
  6. Sanilac - 1,226
  7. Genesee - 1,212
  8. Allegan - 1,210
  9. Calhoun - 1,195
  10. Clinton - 1,174

1,429 people were injured and 12 people were killed as a result of vehicle-deer crashes in 2019. Crashes involving motorcycles made up two-thirds of the reported deaths.

A majority of the crashes occurred on two-lane roads between dusk and dawn, according to the highway planning office. Looking at a single hour, the state data showed vehicle-deer crashes were highest between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. (5,570).

The Michigan State Police offered these safety tips for deer season:

Avoid hitting a deer:

  • Stay aware, awake, and sober.
  • Vehicle-deer crashes occur year-round, but be especially alert in spring and fall.
  • Signs are placed at known deer crossing areas to alert drivers of the possible presence of deer.
  • Deer are herd animals and frequently travel in single file. If you see one deer cross the road, chances are there are more waiting.
  • Be alert for deer, especially at dawn and dusk. If you see one, slow down.
  • Don't rely on gimmicks, flashing your high-beam headlights or honking your horn to deter deer.

If a crash is unavoidable:

  • Don't swerve. 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.
  • Report the crash to the nearest police agency and your insurance company.

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