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Published: Wednesday, 10/5/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Crashes caused by deer fall slightly in Ohio, Michigan

Injuries, damage still significant

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Vehicular collisions with deer declined in both Ohio and Michigan last year, but such crashes still caused 15 deaths in the two states, several thousand injuries, and many millions of dollars in damage, according to freshly released statistics.

In Michigan, just less than 56,000 vehicle-deer collisions occurred in 2010, down from the more than 61,000 during 2009. The Ohio deer crash total in 2010 — much lower than its northern state at 23,201 — was down 7.7 percent from those reported in 2009.

The statistics' release coincides with the onset of the heaviest time of year for vehicle-deer collisions in both states.

Deer travel extensively October through December, particularly to mate, accounting for half of the vehicle-deer collisions in Ohio, and almost 43 percent of those in Michigan.

"If there's a Deer Crossing sign, they don't just put those up for no reason," said Mitch Wilson, a spokesman for the Ohio Insurance Institute. "Use extreme caution, especially during these months and especially at dawn and at dusk."

The Ohio Department of Transportation noted that many deer collisions are believed to go ­unreported, so the actual number may be significantly higher. Even collisions that involve no damage to a vehicle are supposed to be reported to local law enforcement, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, or the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Southern Michigan counties had the highest deer collision totals in that state, attributed to those counties' denser populations of both deer and people. Oakland County, north of Detroit, was highest in the state, while

Kent (Grand Rapids) was second and Jackson County was third.

Closer to Toledo, the deer-crash counts declined modestly last year in Monroe (357 to 352), Lenawee (781 to 746), and Hillsdale counties (1,038 to 1,005). In Lucas County, vehicle-deer crashes declined by 12.1 percent last year, to 340 from 387 in 2009.

The Ohio counties with the highest deer-crash counts were those containing Mansfield, Canton, Cincinnati, and Akron, while rural Williams County in northwest Ohio had the fifth-highest total, 528, last year.

The Michigan Deer Crash Coalition, a group of agencies working to reduce deer-vehicle crashes, estimated the annual cost of such crashes in Michigan at $117 million. The Ohio Insurance Institute's corresponding estimate was $72.2 million.

Ohio's four fatalities last year from drivers either hitting deer or swerving to avoid them occurred in Allen, Cuyahoga, Geauga, and Union counties.

All of Michigan's 11 fatalities last year from such collisions occurred in northern parts of the state.

Deer typically travel in groups, so the appearance of one approaching or crossing a highway often indicates others' presence nearby.

At night, Mr. Wilson recommended using high-beam headlights when no on-coming traffic is present, as the brighter light illuminates the eyes of deer and other animals at a greater distance, providing more reaction time for drivers to slow down.

But should a collision appear imminent, authorities urge drivers not to swerve. Colliding with a deer is generally less hazardous than veering into opposing traffic or losing control and running off the road, they say.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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