|Fall colors: red leaves and blue sky.|
It’s that time of year again when driving, especially at night, makes me a little nervous because of concern over deer in the road.
Deer are plentiful in our area year-round. They often visit our yard, and we see them in other places in the neighborhood. We enjoy their presence.
This is a poor photograph, but it's one I took through the window at night in September. The deer set off the motion lights in the yard. If I open the door to go out and try for a better photo, they run.
But the big fear is that we’ll hit one while driving.
According to the Virginia DMV, most deer-related accidents in Virginia occur in the fall months, October through December.
I was part of those statistics five years ago, in December 2009.
I was driving back to Altavista from Forest, which is in Bedford County, a neighboring county. The back roads I took were curvy and sometimes narrow, but the route cut miles off the trip and provided lovely views.
It was about 10:30 in the morning. I had seen a deer standing in a yard as I passed, so I had a fresh reminder of their presence. I was just tooling along, under the speed limit. I wasn’t listening to the radio. I wasn’t eating. I was just driving.
And it still happened.
My car hit something as I came around a curve. I saw a deer flashing away from my car. The hood of my car was crumpled.
I was shocked, but I managed to find a place to pull over. A kind couple turned their pickup around and came to check on me. We looked at my car. Deer hair covered the hood. Everything in the front seemed pushed towards the front seats. It was a mess.
The couple stayed with me until the state trooper arrived. Then Larry arrived.
He said as he walked up to my car, the trooper turned to him and said, “She’s all right. But I think she’s more upset about the deer than the car.”
“That would be right,” Larry said to him.
And I was upset. I felt terrible that I had hit the deer. Apparently it had jumped a fence and then tried to clear the road. The trooper speculated that hunters were out with dogs, running the deer.
I was lucky. I wasn’t hurt and my car, though heavily damaged, wasn’t totaled. I was especially nervous driving for a while, but that settled down.
What I kept thinking was, I did everything I could to avoid an accident. I wasn’t speeding. I wasn’t distracted. And I still hit a deer.
That notion that we can do everything “right” and still have trouble is sobering, and not an easy one to accept when you have an uneasy relationship with uncertainty, as I do.
After the crash, my boss gave me some little whistle-like gadgets to put on the front fender. They are supposed to help prevent deer from running out in front of your car. I don’t know if they actually work, but I was willing to try them, and they’re still on my car.
And that idea that bad things can happen anytime? I have to accept it. I have to get used to it. All I can do is my best to drive carefully. That’s all any of us can do.
Do you see wildlife near the highways where you live?