Deer-vehicle fatalities statewide in 2015 were up more than 80 percent from 2014, and the number of crashes during the same period rose slightly, according to Michigan State Police data, signaling a spike after years of decline.
There were 11 deaths in 10 crashes last year, according to information from MSP’s Criminal Justice Information Center. That compares with six people who were killed in six crashes in 2014.
None of the deaths were in the tricounty area.
Several issues factor into the increase, according to the Michigan Deer Crash Coalition, including a robust deer population due to a mild winter, more drivers on Michigan roadways and distracted driving.
The statewide total of deer and vehicle crashes in 2015 was 47,001, a 2.8 percent increase from a year earlier, with Oakland County leading the region and the state, according to the MSP figures. The total remains lower than in 2010, when there were 55,867 deer-vehicle crashes.
In southeast Michigan, there were 5,871 vehicle-deer crashes last year, up 314 from 2014, according to SEMCOG, which released figures Tuesday analyzed from the Criminal Justice Information Center.
“About 20 percent of all vehicle crashes are deer crashes,” said Lori Conarton, chairwoman of the Michigan Deer Crash Coalition, an alliance of government agencies, insurance companies, traffic safety organizations and others that works to reduce vehicle-deer crashes. “All crashes increased statewide in 2015 and deer crashes did as well. After years of going down, deer crashes statewide spiked last year.”
Most of the crashes happened in Metro Detroit, where there’s more traffic and more cars on the road, said Conarton, who is also the spokeswoman for the Insurance Institute of Michigan.
Oakland County had 1,873 in 2015, compared with 1,750 in 2014 state police figures show.
Macomb County followed in number of crashes, with 630, and Wayne County had 400 crashes in 2015.
In addition to the deadly toll on motorists, the crashes rack up at least $130 million in damage annually, according to the Michigan Deer Crash Coalition.
Some facts about deer-vehicle crashes:
■The average vehicle crash with a deer, which can range in size from 125 pounds to 225 pounds, results in $2,100 in damage, the coalition said. That’s a conservative estimate, Conarton said, with some vehicles totaled after hitting a deer.
■About 44 percent of all 2015 deer-vehicle crashes occurred in the fall, mating season for deer.
■Most deer-vehicle crashes occur on two-lane roads between dusk and dawn.
“This time of year, motorists really need to pay attention and think about it when they’re on the roadway, especially at dusk and dawn,” she said. “They need to think ‘I’d better watch out for deer’ and keep your eyes on the roadway.”
Steer clear of deer-vehicle crashes
Experts suggests these tips to avoid crashing into deer:
■Buckle up, stay sober, be alert and slow down. Safety belts are the best defense in any collision.
■Be alert for deer in the fall, especially at dawn and dusk, and heed deer crossing and speed limit signs, particularly on two-lane roads.
■Watch for deer crossing signs.
■Deer frequently travel in groups. If you see one, slow down because chances are there are others nearby.
■Flashing high-beam headlights or honking the horn won’t deter deer.
■Do not swerve out of a lane to avoid a deer. Instead, brake firmly while securely gripping the steering wheel to bring the vehicle to a controlled stop.
■It’s generally safer to hit the deer than run off the road or risk injuring another motorist.
Source: Detroit News research