Be On High Alert!

Nor' east Thinkin'

The forces of nature are conspiring against you

Published on: November 8, 2010

Yes, it's that time of year. No, I'm not talking about fattening a turkey (a real one, not a political one) – although a little extra grain might make good gobbling. And no, I'm not "pushing" Christmas shopping – although stores are already selling the Santa Claus spirit.

So what am I talking about? Mother Nature has cocked her hammer with the onset of buck "rut" and the hormonal rush that speeds Whitetail deer herds onto roadways. This is the season when we all need to be scouting for deer before they become fender ornaments.

After 30-some years of rural road driving, I've got a few miles of experience to draw from. In my rearview mirror, I've watch two deer "take wing" off the front of a Mercedes Benz. During the one week that I didn't have deer whistles mounted, I caught a doe on my right front fender. And once, while following a muffler-less truck, a doe flashed between my vehicle and the truck.

I've seen thousands of "blinks" shining in the headlights along the roadsides. Thankfully, they stayed there.

“Deer claims are more likely to occur in the early morning or evening hours," reports Darren Birtciel, rate analyst for Erie Insurance. "In fact, 50% of deer claims occur between 5 p.m. and midnight. Another 20% occur between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m.

Wildlife "experts" will tell you that deer whistles – those little plastic wind-tunneled devices you stick on the front of your vehicle – don’t work. My experience says they're wrong. I've seen too many deer stop, turn in my direction and listen. That often provides just enough hesitation on their part to keep them from moving toward the road and their eternal destination. For the miniscule cost, deer whistles are great insurance.


Erie's 'play-it-safe' tips

  • Deliberately watch for reflections of deer eyes and deer silhouettes on road shoulders, particularly when driving late at night or early in the morning.
  • Use high-beam headlights at night when there's no oncoming traffic.
  • If you encounter a deer standing on the road, assume nothing. Slow down and blow your horn. Some, particularly young ones, haven't learned to yield to oncoming traffic. Last summer, I almost had to get out of my car and chase a young fawn off the roadway.
  • If you see a deer in or near your path, brake firmly but stay in your lane. Never swerve to avoid striking a deer. If a collision is imminent, hit it while in full control of your vehicle.

Want 100% safety effectiveness? Do all your driving between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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