Oh deer. And pardon the pun. This is not an oh-dear-me tale, but deer play a significant part in it.
There are few sights more stirring than a deer dashing out of its woodland hideaway and bounding across open space—unless, that is, the open space is the roadway on which we are traveling. That's when grace and danger converge, and unless we can respond quickly to the potential threat to our and the animal's safety, a collision is inevitable.
I’ve written this in editorials over the many years I’ve been traveling to and from work on heavily wooded roadways through several towns. Just over a week ago, the truth meter reached the extreme limit, when not one but two deer bolted out of a stand of trees and broadsided my car on the passenger side as I was heading home. (A Honda Civic’s frame is not an immovable object.)
Over the years, I’ve shared with our readers the following defensive driving tips, courtesy of the Institute for Insurance Information, to avoid hitting a deer.
· Drive cautiously during early evening and early morning hours when deer are particularly active, and pay particular note to where they usually run.
(In my case, it was early evening, around 7:30, when they decided to cross Route 67 in New Milford as I was heading east, downhill toward Dorwin Hill Road. I’ve never seen deer in this stretch, though I know where they are likely to be spotted farther along and well into Bridgewater and Roxbury.)
· Use high-beam headlights, which reflect the deer's eyes, to see an animal in the roadway, especially at dusk and in the early evening.
· Slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten the deer away.
· Look for other deer after one has crossed the road. Deer seldom run alone. They have also been known to cross over and then back again.
· Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path. Do not swerve, which can confuse the deer as to where to run and can also cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
· If you cannot avoid hitting the deer, it is better to hit it head-on. Brake until just before the point of impact, then raise the hood to prevent the animal from flying onto the windshield.
· If you hit a deer, don't touch it. If it is alive, it could be dangerous. Call state or local police immediately.
(The NMPD officer who responded to the scene and I went looking for my two “assailants” after the incident, but we couldn’t find them. He told me that deer are a lot stronger and sturdier than their graceful form would suggest and that they probably ran off after being stunned by the impact of butting the car.)