A violent reminder about caution

Published 10:08 pm Monday, January 9, 2012

Most Mondays I arrive at work wracking my brain for the perfect column topic. When I agreed to write a column, I never realized what a struggle it would become to write 400 to 500 interesting words a week about working in Suffolk.

But thanks to whatever possessed me to take the rural route home Friday night, I didn’t have that problem yesterday.

That’s because last Friday night, I hit a deer.

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It was the first animal I’ve hit and the first to leave a permanent mark on the car.

Spending a great deal of my driving career in the mountains of western Virginia, I know this much about deer: Seeing one on the side of the road shouldn’t be the scariest thing you’ve ever experienced. It is a cause for concern, yes, but seeing the telltale flash of an animal’s eyes is merely a reminder to slow down.

It is not a reason to swerve erratically, lose control of your vehicle or any other action that generally ends with people wrecking their cars into a ditch, tree or other vehicle.

When I started driving, I silently promised myself I wouldn’t be the crazy person who leaves a half-mile of wreckage around them and one unscathed deer that hadn’t even made the decision to enter the roadway.

But when a medium-sized buck appeared magically in the road in front of me, I admit that I screamed a little. And time slowed down, though, it wasn’t slow enough. I had a second to decide whether to change lanes in the hope of going around it. I didn’t, however, have enough time to brake.

I hit the deer going the speed limit, since I had just set my cruise control. It bounced into the air and — by some freak of physics — landed right back in front of me, where I promptly hit it again, this time running right over it.

Seemingly miraculously, I hit the deer at the right speed and angle to cause little damage to myself, while still killing it almost instantly. And the damage to my vehicle was also minimal. Considering most of the stories I hear about encounters between deer and vehicles, it’s amazing to note that this one merely dented my hood, shattered my headlights and took off my license plate.

Thinking on it now, I’m grateful that the situation ended the way it did. Because what I take from this situation is how lucky I was, and how lucky the next person might not be.

So be careful out there, folks. As the population of deer in Suffolk grows, so does the chance of your car violently encountering one.

Reduce your chances by using high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic, by paying attention to movement and reflections ahead of you and by choosing roads that deer are more likely to avoid.