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STEERING YOU RIGHT

Car Questions and Answers

 

August 4, 2017

Q. "I've hit two deer in the last few years. How do I avoid this again because it's a terrible experience? It makes me want to quit my job so I don't have to commute between Farmington and Durango."

A. This was a quote from a person who actually left her job at SJC because of the commute. If you consistently see deer hit on the road, be aware. I drive that stretch of road north of Aztec all the time, and deer love to cross it. A deer still maintains the primal instinct that tells him he can outrun anything out there. Once I estimated about 500 cars an hour on that 10 mile stretch of road, and I see a dead deer every day. If you drive that route often, the odds are pretty good that one day it will be you colliding with a deer. Certain times of year and day are worse than others. However there are ways to DECREASE your odds of hitting a deer.

1. Slow down 5-10 mph below the speed limit - drive slow, especially in the morning, evening and night. The two deer I've hit were just before dawn, and one in early evening. It ruined my day, and especially ruined the deer's day. Deer seem most active when the natural lighting is most challenging. One deer survived, the other was a pretty instantaneous death. I picked the first deer off the highway. He was a young buck and he was pretty stunned, but I could give him a quick assessment that no bones were broken. He had a bad bloody nose, but when I tried to pick him up, it was apparent he had lots of life left in him. I helped him through the barbed wire fence and watched him bound away like mule deer do.

2. Don't use the phone. It's tempting to look at that new text coming in, but don't.

3. Polish your headlights. Many new cars have plastic headlights, and some are so cloudy, very little light gets through. You don't always notice because they deteriorate slowly. Local parts stores have kits that will shine those headlights to look like new. Aim then too. Dealerships have fancy headlight aimers, but all you really need is to aim them on a garage door and some basic tools. Save your money on the deer whistles and use your high beams as much as you can.

4. Change your schedule if you can. Stay a little later, or leave a little earlier. If you can do your job online, look into it. Time it so you can avoid the worst time to drive through these deer crossing areas. I'd rather take a little work home than hit a deer.

5. Be aware of certain times of the year and be aware of problem deer crossing areas. Hunting season and harvest season are times when animals move around more. Critters seem to be more active as the moon waxes full. Certain parts of Hwy. 550 between Durango and Aztec have tall deer fencing which seems to help keep deer off the highway. There are also tunnels where they can pass under. In my opinion this was a great addition to the road. I think highways need to evolve at the same rate cars do.

6. You can use the driver in front of you to your advantage. Use their lights to see further up, but keep a little distance between you and them.

7. If you spot a deer crossing in the distance, keep slowing down and be ready for the rest of the herd to follow.

8. Keep the amount of clutter in your car to a minimum, and secure everything - especially people. It's amazing how disgusting your car is when you are sitting upside down and all the contents of your car come raining down on you. If you have to do a panic stop it's better to only worry about your driving, and not what that drink is going to do in your cup holder. Finally, if hitting a deer is inevitable, I'd rather it be the deer than me. I've gone in the ditch avoiding deer multiple times, but have seen others do much worse.

If you haven't got the idea yet, this topic "hits pretty close to home," there are lots of deer lying on this stretch of road on which I currently live. I grew up in a rural area, with a high population of deer. It was common to see a deer hit every day. My father and I would respond to some bad rollovers, and often had to "dispatch" wounded deer. Just briefly, I'd like to be an advocate for the deer. When you hit a deer, you create a foster animal, wound an animal, and ruin their day. My day is ruined when I stare into the eyes of deer with two broken legs.

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