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Coming to a highway near you: deer

Published October 30. 2019 12:20PM

If you are like I am, during the last three months of the year you are on high alert from dusk until dawn for deer crossing in front of your car, truck or SUV.

The critters are on the move right now, so my cautionary tale follows the sad saga I had heard from a server at a local restaurant whose face was covered in cuts and bruises.

“Before you ask,” she said, “I was in an accident with a deer.” She is not alone. At this time of year, especially, scores of area residents are injured in encounters with the critters as they scamper mostly in little groups across rural and sometimes not so rural roads.

In her case, she swerved her car to avoid Bambi’s mother. The car went down an embankment and overturned, pinning her inside. Aside from a hospital visit for a few hours and a face that serves as a conversation piece for a few weeks, she is fine. The car? Not so much.

The odds of hitting a deer in Pennsylvania are 52 to 1, according to the State Farm insurance annual deer-vehicle collision study. That’s more than twice as likely as the average U.S. driver.

Pennsylvania ranks third in the probability that you will have a deer encounter of the worst kind, next only to West Virginia (one in 38) and Montana (one in 48).

Deer cause more deaths annually than any other animal in the United States — 150 in 2018. The 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions were responsible for $1.1 billion in property damage.

Knowledge is power, and this is no less true when it comes to understanding what occurs during the annual deer rut or mating season. The rut is triggered by shorter days such as we experience in the fall months.

The most important advice I can give you during the rut (now until late December) is to slow down, stay alert, watch both sides of the road, and be prepared to come to a complete stop if necessary.

While it would be a blessing to us motorists if they did, deer do not stop, look and listen before darting into the path of your much-cherished vehicle.

Deer-crossing signs are helpful to tip us off to where they have been seen more frequently, but during the rut all bets are off.

While still being courteous, use your high beams when possible to improve visibility, especially along the sides of roads. Flashing your high beams might cause animals to avoid the highway for a while, but it is not foolproof. The flip side of this technique is that your headlights might blind or confuse them. Remember the “deer caught in the headlights” admonition?

Deer are most active around mealtime. According to State Farm statistics, deer crashes usually occur an hour after sunset and near sunrise, but, of course, deer do not wear watches, so you should be on your guard at other times, too.

Seeing one deer is a clue that there are more, because they are herd animals that typically travel in single file.

The immediate temptation upon seeing a deer is to swerve to avoid a collision. Instead, brake firmly, hold onto the steering wheel and stay in your lane as you attempt to bring the vehicle to a safe stop. If you do hit the deer, it is in most cases a better alternative to what will happen after you swerve to avoid the collision.

Always wear your seat belt. That is especially true at this time of year, because this will decrease your chances of injuries if you do have a deer encounter.

“Claims after collisions with an animal range from small dents to totaled vehicles and injured drivers and passengers,” said Michael Braaten, director of Enterprise Research.

“By sharing ways to help drivers be aware of the increased dangers this time of year — including inclement weather, shorter periods of daylight and students driving home after evening activities — State Farm hopes to help decrease the number of collisions and injuries.”

Aside from just about any rural road, some of the major highways where I would be particularly careful are on Route 903 between Jim Thorpe and Lake Harmony, Route 209 between Lehighton and Kresgeville, Route 209 between Tamaqua and Port Carbon, Route 443 between Andreas and Route 309, Route 309 between Tamaqua and New Tripoli, I-80 through Carbon County, I-81 through Schuylkill County and the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike between the Wilkes-Barre and the Mahoning Valley interchanges.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com

Comments
Thank you Bruce for a great reminder to all. Here's hoping TN keeps you a long time.
May I add when the Female Doe is in Estrus or ready to breed, (Rut Season) the Bucks will get crazy tracking her, running, lunging and jumping across the roads, not just walking across. And when I speak of the Doe in Estrus I say "in season" I do not use the words "in heat" as is common with men.
I use the same word "in season" when a female dog (bitch - canine) is in Estrus. Men tend to take it to the gutter and even use bitch to describe a female which by the way is even listed in Merriam-Webster. And some of us wonder why men get away with behaving badly.
Oh my god! Thank you so much! 30 years in the area and I never understood! What would we ever do without the wisdom of a right wing dilettante?
Not every one has been in this area for 30 years so lets be fair. The article was educational too.

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