Car-deer accidents on the rise

ESCANABA — With the arrival of fall, car-deer accidents are starting to become more common in the area. Delta County Sheriff Ed Oswald said this is typical for the season.

“Just recently, we’ve seen an increase,” he said.

Oswald said that, so far, 2017’s car-deer accident rate has not been dramatically higher or lower than the rates seen in the recent past.

“It seems fairly consistent year after year,” he said.

However, autumn car-deer accident rates are so high in the Upper Peninsula that Oswald said this is one of the busiest times of the year for local auto body shops.

“It really picks up their business,” he said.

Oswald also noted that, based on his own observations, the impact of changing deer population levels over the past few years on car-deer accident rates has been minimal.

“I don’t recall seeing that effect much on car-deer accidents,” he said.

As the fall of 2017 has been relatively warm so far, bikers in the area have continued to ride their motorcycles.

“There’s still motorcycles on the road,” Oswald said. Motorcycle-deer accidents can be particularly dangerous, as shown by the death of an Ontonagon resident after a deer ran into his motorcycle earlier in 2017.

Oswald said that heightened deer-related risks also exist for drivers of off-road vehicles (ORVs).

“It’s become more of a concern with ORVs,” Oswald said.

While car-deer accidents are currently on the rise, Oswald said these accidents will likely continue to increase next month.

“We see a lot more … start up when deer season starts,” he said, noting that this is due in large part to the presence of hunters in U.P. forests.

Because of the increased risk of car-deer accidents at this time of year, Oswald encouraged motorists to be particularly cautious while driving during the fall.

“Slowing down will increase your reaction time,” he said.

According to Oswald, car-deer accidents are most common at dusk and dawn. He said this is the case because there are many cars on area roads, visibility is reduced, and deer are active at these times.

Although it is always important for drivers to have functioning headlights, Oswald said it is especially crucial at this time of year. Impaired visibility plays a role in many car-deer accidents.

“Make sure both headlights are working,” he said.