We present a description of the spin-one Kemmer-Duffin-Petiau equations. An effective second-order equation is obtained for various types of interactions. An argument is given for the use of one particular form of interaction for deuteron-nucleus scattering. This provides the basis for a generalization of the standard Watanabe model in which Dirac scalar and vector nucleon-nucleus potentials are used as input. Parameter-free calculations are performed using both phenomenological and microscopic nucleon-nucleus potentials, and results are compared with deuteron-nucleus elastic scattering data at 400 and 700 MeV. Qualitative agreement is generally obtained. A good description of the forward-angle vector analyzing power data is achieved. © 1989 The American Physical Society.