On Sunday, a woman in western Pennsylvania was killed when a deer came through the windshield of a vehicle.

The deer was first struck by a car headed north and then the animal crashed through the windshield of a southbound car in which Carol Mitch, a registered nurse, was a front-seat passenger. The mother of four children, Mitch was remembered by co-workers as a "special, caring person" who made her mark not only with the Visiting Nurses Association, but as a community volunteer as well.

Last Friday, a deer smashed into a carpeting store near Pittsburgh, crashing into displays. Police were able to get the deer out of the store before anybody got hurt but the incident left employees shaken. One woman called the incident "horrifying." For about 20 minutes, all she heard was banging and glass shattering.

Late last month, a deer jumped through the windshield of a UPS box trailer, causing the vehicle to overturn in the median of the road in Westmoreland County. Fortunately, there was no one in the passenger seat and somehow the driver avoided being seriously injured by the animal thrashing wildly inside his cab.

November is the peak month in the deer breeding season, when white-tailed deer, searching for a mate or being chased by a potential suitor, are most unpredictable and likely to dart into traffic. The most dangerous times are at dawn and dusk when many people are commuting to and from work. Motorists are advised not to swerve to avoid a deer, as you might strike another object.

West Virginia continues to be the state where a vehicle is most likely to hit a deer, but Pennsylvania ranks fourth on the list. The odds of a deer-vehicle collision over the next year are 1 in 40 in West Virginia while in Pennsylvania, they are 1 in 76.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reports that in the last five years, there were over 14,802 crashes involving deer on state roads, resulting in 41 fatalities. This number only includes the "reportable" crashes, where a vehicle had to be towed or someone was injured or killed.

Two weeks ago during an early-morning commute to work, this writer became a statistic in the vehicle versus deer confrontation, a road ritual this time of year. As in many of these highway confrontations, the deer suddenly appeared out of nowhere, not allowing enough braking time to avoid the collision.

Thankfully, the air bag deployed and I suffered no physical injury but the damages to the vehicle were extensive, totalling over $10,000. The OnStar on my vehicle was vital, providing immediate assistance during the road emergency, which occurred in a rural area.

Needless to say, the words "drive defensively" carry much more meaning than they did before the accident.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com