Oh deer -- 01/31/07

The other day John Scalzi (author of The Old Man's War, The Ghost Brigades, The Android's Dream, etc.) noted that his wife had just had a deer collide with the passenger door on her car -- no injury, just a dent. Combine that with a news item on TV news Monday about how large the deer population has become in recent years that had lots of video clips of cars that had struck deer or crashed trying to avoid deer.

I had a similar encounter with a deer years ago -- I was driving along on my commute to work when suddenly something caught my eye and I turned my head to the right just in time to see a deer smack into the passenger door of my car -- a car that was so new I hadn't even mailed in the first payment on my car loan (a 1967 Chevy, the first new car I owned). The deer took off but left a dent in the door. It was a vital point for my insurance company that the deer hit me rather than me hitting the deer. That meant that it fell under "comprehensive" coverage which, under that particular policy, meant I was reimbursed for the actual cash value of repairs -- as opposed to being under "collision" coverage which had a $200 deductible.

Back around that same time I remember hearing about a driver who lived west of Kingston, out in the Woodstock area. He had had an collision with a deer and had taken his car to a body shop in Kingston for repairs. After a few days the repairs on his car were completed and he picked it up. On the way home on Route 28 he struck another deer and totalled his car.

I was driving up the New York State Thruway from the New York City area -- again, quite a few years ago -- when suddenly a buck deer ran from the woods on the right side of the highway, across the shoulder and into the travel lanes, into the path of a car which struck the deer straight on at about seventy-five miles an hour. It was almost like an explosion as the car's radiator burst and a cloud of steam erupted from under the hood. The driver managed to keep control of the car and pulled off onto the shoulder. I had been one lane over and about a hundred feet or so behind that car. I braked and pulled off the road behind him and walked up to his car to see if he was okay. He had a somewhat pale and shocked look and his hands were still gripping the steering wheel tightly. He said "I don't give a damn about the car -- it's a company car. I'm just glad I'm alive." And then he asked if I would mind stopping at the tollbooths at the next exit and asking them to send the state police and a tow truck.

Nancy was driving down Interstate 88 to Binghamton one time, coming back from a business trip. The company she worked for at the time (Link Flight Simulation) had an idea that it would be a good idea to send their programmers and engineers out to recruit and interview college students as prospective employees. She had spent a couple of days at colleges in the Albany-Schenectady area and was now on her way back home, driving a rental car. She suddenly had the eerie sense of being watched and she started to glance to her left when a deer slammed into the rear quarter of the car on her side. When she arrived at the rental car agency to drop off the now badly dented car, the woman behind the counter just shook her head in disbelief. It seems that Nancy was the first person to drive that car after it had come back from being repaired after a customer had struck a deer with it.

In our town we have to be alert to the possibility of deer crossing the roads. It's more than just out on the highways -- I have long ago lost count of how many nights I have seen deer just two blocks up our street. They are crossing the road, they are wandering around in the yards of the houses along the street. All of us have learned to be very alert and careful as soon as we turn onto our street -- the deer seem to cross through our neighborhood there, going from one remaining wooded area to another.

I have heard estimates that there are more deer in North America today than there were in colonial days.

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