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the occasions lady and

A Deer in the Headlights
by Audrey Poff, illustration by Brittney Guest

“What are deer doing running around the neighborhood anyway?” That was the question our 17-year-old daughter, Sophie, asked following a late-night mishap in October.

On her way home from a friend’s house in the Valley View area, a deer ran out in front of her car. Most likely distracted by the headlights, the deer apparently came at her head-on. Although a collision was unavoidable, we were fortunate that she was able to keep the car on the road and was uninjured. The front of her Toyota did not fare as well. We are still awaiting insurance estimates for the vehicle, but cars can be repaired – for a few thousand dollars.

We live inside but near the I-555 bypass. While it is not uncommon to see opossums, raccoons, foxes and even a few free-range chickens in our neighborhood, I have not seen a deer in our area in the 17 years we have lived here. So, when a deer jumped out in front of her on a neighborhood street, I have no doubt that Sophie thought a freak of nature was attacking her.

A newspaper article stated that most vehicle-deer collisions in the U.S. occur in October, November and December as mating season, hunting season and longer nights collide. With more deer on the move and holiday travel approaching, here are a few tips from law enforcement officers to help avoid hitting a deer or to help minimize the damage if a collision is unavoidable.

• Use bright headlights if possible when driving in the dark. A deer’s eyes will reflect in your car’s headlights, making them easier to spot.

• Look for the road signs. The yellow hazard signs with an image of a deer are placed along high-traffic routes for the animals. If you see one deer by the side of the road, slow down. Chances are good others will be nearby.

• Avoid distractions, such as devices or eating, so you can watch for animals. This is important at any time but especially necessary because your vision is at its most compromised when deer are most active.

• Stay near the center if you’re on a four-lane or wider road with little traffic. This gives a deer plenty of space and can give you more time to react if one darts into the road.

• Honk if you see a deer in the road. One long blast of your car horn can scare a deer out of your way and might be your final chance to try to avoid a collision.

• Don’t swerve to avoid a deer. You’ll likely end up hitting a guardrail or tree instead and cause more injuries. Hard as it may be, it’s best to strike the deer.

• Stay in your lane and brake firmly if you have to hit a deer. Just before you hit the deer, take your foot off the brake. This will cause the nose of your vehicle to come back up, reducing the chance of the deer smashing into your windshield.

• Get to a safe place before reporting the accident if your vehicle is not disabled after hitting the deer. This might be a driveway, a parking lot or the next exit if you’re on an interstate.

• Move your vehicle to the side of the road if possible when your vehicle is disabled. Use your hazard lights, call police and keep your seat belts on.