‘Please be aware’: Police urge caution as deer become more active

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Every fall, cooler temperatures mean more active deer. It can be a problem for drivers.

Michigan State Police say they responded to a crash around 6:30 a.m. Friday involving three different cars that struck a herd of deer attempting to cross I-96 near 28th Street.

While there were no injuries, the crashes serve as a reminder to be careful.

“Please be aware. Each year, there are nearly 50,000 reported vehicle-deer crashes in Michigan,” MSP Lt. Michelle Robinson said. “Eighty percent of those are on rural roads or two-lane roads, but as we saw this morning, there are crashes that happen on the expressways as well.”

As the weather gets cooler and hunters go into the woods, the deer aren’t staying in one spot. They are moving to more urban areas. It’s a lesson James Albright, instructor at Century Driving School in Wyoming, talks about with all of his students.

“They’re in town. They’re eating plants. They’re not afraid of people like they used to be,” Albright said.

On Oct. 12, the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office were called to a crash near Zeeland that killed a 55-year-old man. According to deputies, the man hit a deer and it went through the windshield and out of the rear window. The driver was pronounced dead on the scene.

In 2020, Ottawa County was listed as having the fourth most car-deer crashes of any county in the state. Kent County had the second highest with 1,173 crashes.

It can be difficult to avoid a crash if you spot a deer when it’s close to you. Experts say you should not swerve — that could actually cause a more serious crash.

“The worst thing you can do is swerve to avoid it because of what’s off the road. We have ditches. We have trees. We have utility lines. We have culverts. A lot of these ditches have water right now, so if a car goes into it it can become submerged,” Albright said.

Instead, he said, “Break hard.

“Hold the steering wheel straight and if you have to strike the deer, it happens,” he said. “No deer’s life is worth your life or your family’s.”

You can watch for deer in the distance by looking for the green reflection of light off their eyes — not red, as is the case with most animals, Albright said.

“If you see those two little green dots in the distance, there is deer,” he said.

If you see one, slow down, even if it doesn’t appear to be moving.

And always be aware of what could be ahead.

Lt. Robinson added that it’s also important for drivers to wear their seat belts and drive sober.

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