The nice things about living out in the country are the peace and quiet, the fresh, unpolluted air, the lovely green flora, and the interesting fauna. The bad thing (at least one of them) about living in the country is not, as one might expect, cow patties, but the above-mentioned fauna, which has a propensity for jumping into the path of cars at inopportune times. Here are a few tips on what to do if large animals, such as deer, unexpectedly appear in front of the vehicle you are driving.
1. Try to avoid hitting the deer. Deer are mostly solid, and can weigh anywhere from 100 to 200 lbs. By avoiding a collision with a deer, you will not only make the deer very happy, but also save yourself a good chunk of money in car-repair bills. However, don’t try too hard. Some of the worst accidents I have seen as an EMT were caused by someone swerving into oncoming traffic, or into an immovable object, trying to avoid hitting a deer/dog/squirrel/chipmunk/whatever.
2. Try not to hit the pointy part. If you can, avoid hitting a deer straight on; the greater of an angle you have away from the deer, the more likely it will be spun out of the path of your car, thus minimizing damage. Given a choice, try to hit the deer’s rear. Pointy bits are bad news. You don’t want to find antlers coming in the window at you, as those things can get pretty doggone sharp.
3. Try to hit the deer at as low of a speed as possible. As soon as you see wildlife by the side of the road, prepare to slow down. Animals are unpredictable, and you never know when one might decide that it REALLY wants to be on the other side of the road.
4. Don’t assume that because a deer is facing a certain direction, that is the direction it will run. Deer are very, very fast, and can change directions on a dime. What is a survival-positive strategy if you are being chased by wolves does not always make a good traffic-dodging strategy.
5. If you see that the collision is unavoidable, ACCELERATE immediately before you hit the deer. This seems like it would conflict with #3, but really it doesn’t. When you step on the brakes, the inertia of the vehicle pushes its nose downward, providing a lovely ramp for the deer to slide up and land on your lap accompanied by the windshield. If you stomp on the gas with all your might just before you hit the deer, inertia will pull the car’s nose UP, and the chances are MUCH better that the car will go over the deer, as opposed to the deer going over the car.
If you do hit the deer without getting hurt yourself, stop and take a look at the deer. If it is injured but alive, the kindest thing to do is to put it out of its misery. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, go to the next step, which is calling the police to file a report (so your insurance will be happy). In some states, the person who hits a deer is allowed to keep it, so if you’re a venison eater, this is worth checking into (I don’t advise running over deer for the purpose of eating them – not only is it really, really mean, but it’s kind of expensive in car repairs, too).
The worst times of the year for deer collisions are fall and winter. Deer mate in the fall, so they travel much more than usual in search of mates. In the winter, food shortages also force deer to range much farther than normal. I’m not saying deer don’t cross roads in the spring and summer, but they do tend to stick closer to home then.
So remember, if you’re about to hit a deer… whip out your iBook, log on to E2, and read these helpful instructions – they could save your life!!