Columns

2009.11.18 Deer in the roadway may be least of worries

on . Posted in Nowhere Road

By RICH FOLEY

The deer hunting season is underway in Michigan, with Ohio’s turn soon to follow. As always, it’s a good idea to be alert on the roadways because those pesky deer can pop up at anytime. I got a shocking reminder of that a couple of weeks ago.

I was driving near the Adrian Mall when in my rear view mirror I saw an apparition from the past. It was my old 1985 Chevrolet Caprice, still displaying massive front end damage from a run-in with a behemoth of a deer nine years ago. 

I hadn’t seen the Chevy in three or four years and assumed it had long ago been shredded and shipped to China. Not the case, obviously. It would have been a perfect candidate for the Cash for Clunkers program, but dodged that bullet, too. I wish I could have stopped the driver to find out how many miles it now had and if it was still leaking oil in mass quantities. Instead, it only served as a reminder to watch for deer.

Or lots of other animals, too. No doubt you remember that several escaped cows from a farm near Lyons were involved in various vehicular accidents a few months ago. Then there was that poor young bear that was killed in a Fulton County crash a few years ago. How it ended up there, perhaps a couple hundred miles from the nearest bear habitat, was never explained.

Just last Thursday, the Henry County Sheriff’s Department reported goats on State Route 109. And Saturday, a friend and I watched a rat cross M-52 near downtown Manchester. Granted, a rat or even a goat wouldn’t do that much damage under normal circumstances, but sometimes circumstances turn out to be anything but normal.

Take, for example, the Texas man who last Wednesday drove his Bugatti Veyron, valued at over a million dollars, into a salt marsh near Galveston after being surprised by a low-flying pelican. He dropped his cellphone, reached to pick it up and drove into the marsh. When police arrived, the car was half-submerged in salt brine.

La Marque, Texas, police lieutenant Greg Gilchrist told the Associated Press that while he didn’t know if the French-made car was salvageable, “Salt water isn’t good for anything.” Smart man, give him a promotion. The pelican got away uninjured.

A week earlier, a couple driving their SUV home from church nearly slammed full speed into an 8-foot elephant crossing U. S. 81 near Enid, Oklahoma. At the last second, the driver swerved and only sideswiped the pachyderm.

The elephant, a 29-year-old female, suffered a broken tusk and leg wounds. The driver and his wife were unhurt. The SUV received shredded sheet metal damage where the elephant’s tusk broke through.

You’re waiting for an explanation as to why an elephant was running loose in central Oklahoma, aren’t you? Actually, it had escaped from a circus in the area. Once it recovers, I’ll bet it won’t try that again.

The website car-accidents.com carries many more stories of car-animal encounters. For instance, a Kansas man driving a Porsche 911 swerved into the oncoming lane to miss a pheasant flying toward his windshield. He hit a one-ton Dodge pickup head-on, fracturing both femurs, his right hip, left fibula, left foot, left radius, left ulna and numerous lesser injuries. The Porsche was ripped into three pieces. The pheasant got away. 

Then there was the English animal-lover who swerved to miss several rabbits in the road. He jumped a curb, demolished a lamp post and tree and rolled down an embankment. The fuel tank in his diesel Citroen burst, drenching him in diesel fuel. He suffered 12 broken ribs, two crushed vertebrae, a punctured lung, numerous internal injuries and various lacerations and bruises. The bunnies hopped away unscathed.

It’s nice to protect the animals, although most experts will tell you it’s safer to hit the animal than swerve. The drivers of the Porsche and Citroen no doubt would have been better off it they had hit the animals. The folks in Oklahoma, though, might have been killed if they hit the elephant head on. 

Sometimes, it’s hard to make that judgment. A few years ago, my sister chose to hit a raccoon in her lane rather than swerve. She was fine, and amazingly, the raccoon ran away to harass motorists another day. Her Mitsubishi Eclipse, on the other hand, suffered over $800 in cosmetic damage.

I think the moral of all this is pretty clear. Park your vehicle in the nearest lot, walk home slowly, and don’t trip over any animals on the way.

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