Driving Hazards

I pulled out of my driveway yesterday and headed down the hill as I usually do. In the middle of the street a couple of houses down from mine there were two does looking back over their shoulders. I knew that they weren’t looking at me so I stopped for a minute. They stood there much longer than usual. The deer in our neighborhood are quick to get out of the way of cars and people walking dogs and other traffic except at this time of the year. I looked where they were looking and sure enough there was a good looking buck in pursuit. He looked a bit tired, but he was on his way up the hill after the does.

We know that this is the season of the rut, when the deer are distracted and drivers need to be a bit more cautious. It happens every year. In our neighborhood, we don’t see the bucks very much until the rut. There will be a couple of bucks early in the fall, cruising the neighborhood and looking at the does, but their timing is off and the does don’t show any interest. Things speed up by the end of October and we start to see the bigger bucks in the neighborhood.

It is one of the joys of living where we do. We get to watch the natural world and be reminded that we aren’t the only creatures who enjoy this place to live.

There is a flock of turkeys that comes across my back yard at about the same time every morning. They head out across a major road and most of them make it. At least the turkeys speed up when they get to the pavement. The deer often seem to slow down when crossing the road as if they know it is dangerous and fear making a misstep.

They say that it isn’t a matter of “if” but of when you will hit a deer if you drive in this country. That isn’t completely true. In our family of four, three of us have hit a deer and one of our family barely hit the deer. It jumped and kicked a rearview mirror. The mirror broke but that was all of the damage to the car and it appeared as if the deer suffered no damage at all. But accidents with animals can be more severe. We had a car totaled on a foggy evening. It was being driven slowly because of the reduced visibility, but the deer darted right in front of it and was struck in a way that pushed the radiator out of its mounting brackets. The crumple zone in the car also suffered. It was an old car and the damage exceeded the value of the vehicle. Of course the accident happened the day after I put new tires on the car, not the day before. But we have been fortunate. None of our encounters with wildlife have caused any injuries to people. Every deer strike has left us with a car that was able to get the driver home. We know plenty of stories of neighbors and friends who have had much more serious accidents with animals.

Sharing the neighborhood with animals does have its risks, but on the whole I think that those who live in dense urban areas with lots and lots of human neighbors have riskier commutes and more accidents with their cars.

When it comes to hormone driven behaviors, I suspect that human teenagers with drivers’ licenses pose a larger danger than deer in rut.

I suppose that observing the antics of the neighbors has been a human pursuit as long as people have been around. We certainly find it interesting to pay attention to the behaviors of our human and non-human neighbors.

Among the other behaviors of our neighbors that can pose a potential risk to safety is the annual “learn to drive on slippery roads” course that the weather and terrain around here offer. Those of us who grew up in hills or mountains find it amusing to watch flatlanders drive in general. They tend to be afraid of hills and curves, taking them at a very slow pace, and then speed up when the road is straight and flat. There is a curvy section as you head out of town towards our home. It is easy to drive that section of road at the marked 50 mph, but I know I will often encounter a driver going 35 mph or slower. Then that same driver will speed up to 60 or more when they reach the straight section of the road. We also know that flatlanders would rather die in a flaming head-on crash than slid off the edge of the road. They will cross over the center line to avoid driving near the edge of the road, especially when there is a drop off at the edge of the road. This behavior is more exaggerated when the road becomes wet or a little slippery. In addition, people with little driving experience on slippery roads tend to think that the solution to the slippery is to drive slowly, without regard to spacing between cars. The space between cars is the cause of more fender benders than anything else. When they follow close, they can’t stop. The United States Air Force has a real sense of humor about this one, frequently transferring airmen from a base in Georgia to Rapid City. If you’ve lived in this town for a while, you know to watch out for Georgia license plates when driving on slippery roads.

All in all, however, we live in a very safe neighborhood. Folks around here watch out for one another for the most part and the animals generally show a little caution about the busiest of roads. Those of us who have lived here for a while learn to be cautions and we learn where the deer cross the road. And we also learn that during the rut they’ll cross anywhere.

Be safe out there.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!