If the volume of animal activity I saw on my drive to work this morning portend the voter turnout we can expect this election day, then our polling places should be quite active.

With all the negative campaigning that has occurred in this election, voters in key battleground states might even agree that some of the candidates in the bitter mid-term races have themselves acted like a bunch of animals, but that's another issue.

Back to my pre-dawn drive. On just the short stretch I travel in Mahoning Township to hook up with Route 443, I encountered a raccoon scurrying across the road and only a few yards farther, a deer grazing right off the berm. It was a quick reminder of how alert motorists must be when traveling in our heavily-wooded regions, such as Carbon, Schuylkill and Monroe counties.

Officials remind us that in November, 80 percent ofwildlife vehicle collisions involve deer, which are most active during the fall, particularly between sunset and sunrise. These animals move around and can be oblivious to activity around them during their breeding season. This fit the description of that deer I encountered this morning.

Despite the appeal of deer around the holidays, especially to children, we are also reminded that they cause more than 150 fatalities nationally as well as tens of thousands of injuries. Pennsylvania ranks third in the nation in deer collisions.

Officials offer some helpful hints on ways you can reduce your risk of hitting a deer and injuring yourself or others:

Limit your driving time during the sunrise and sunset hours;

Drive more slowly during sunrise and sunset hours and keep alert to movement along the highway;

Select more major, well-lit routes if there are alternative routes to travel;

Allow adequate space between cars to increase braking ability if a deer springs out;

Use your high-beam lights when possible to maximize your field of view; and

Be on the lookout for multiple deer running in a herd – wherever there is one deer, there are usually others nearby.

One of my own rules to remember is that while we are current settlers of the land, those in the animal kingdom are its original inhabitants.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com