Deer are Dangerous

This evening I was first on the scene of this accident:

The driver was a 16 year old boy who had his drivers license for only a few days. He turned to avoid hitting a deer that jumped into the road ahead of him. He avoided the deer but lost control and rolled the car.
He sat in my car while talking to the 911 dispatcher. He claimed he had just skinned his knee, but the dispatcher sent an ambulance anyway. I’m not surprised. He was not talking clearly. He was obvious very shaken up.
His grandmother (I knew her when I was going to grade school even though she is about seven years younger than me) showed up a few minutes later and is shown in the picture above. She comforted him for a while. Then his mother and sister showed up. A bunch of hugging occurred and grandma explained the deputy would ask some questions and that it didn’t matter about the car as long as he was okay.
The deputy showed up. Grandma said, “It’s Jeremey, good.” Jeremey talked to the family for while and after the ambulance and fire truck arrived he took some pictures.
The medics evaluated the boy, put him in a neck brace, put him on a stretcher and hauled him away. I don’t know his diagnosis but I expect he will be fine. But I’m not surprised they wanted him to get some in depth attention.
There is a lesson to be learned here. Avoiding the deer certainly caused more physical injury than if he had hit it. And, almost certainly, it caused more damage to the car. Hit the brakes and reduce the impact velocity, but if you worry about avoiding the impact, you almost certainly put yourself and vehicle at greater risk. I hit a deer at 65 MPH and car and driver were in much better shape then this kid and his car going probably 35 MPH or less and avoiding the deer.
Deer are dangerous.


14 thoughts on “Deer are Dangerous

  1. Many years ago, my father hit a deer and tore the front end of a car to bits.
    Before that, an Aunt hit an Elk that rolled over the hood into the car, and literally into her lap, crippling her for the rest of her life and killing her first husband.

    I have been fortunate. I was quick enough on the brakes that I missed a moose that apparently wanted a closer relationship.

    I’ve seen morons swerve into the opposing – thankfully traffic free – lane to miss a squirrel

  2. Here in Florida it’s turtles and alligators, even snakes! (Who in the world tries to avoid running over a snake?) Disney has a lot to answer for.

  3. Miles partially answered a question your post raised in my mind. Don’t swerve for deer, and just take the hit on the vehicle exterior, but DO swerve for elk (moose?) because they are tall enough to roll over the bonnet and into the passenger compartment?

    • I think it is a tough call. If you have the time to evaluate your alternate path, then sure. But in my two encounters with deer there was not nearly enough time. I didn’t even have time to hit the brakes.

      I did swerve to avoid what was probably an elk once. The freeway was completely deserted, and it was late at night. Had there been other cars I might have hit them. There was no time for evaluation of my surroundings.

  4. “but if you worry about avoiding the impact, you almost certainly put yourself and vehicle at greater risk.”

    Especially on a gravel road. Violent maneuvers and poor traction don’t go well together.

    “Here in Florida it’s turtles and alligators, even snakes!”

    Turtles I would try to avoid hitting if at all possible. Most species of them are completely harmless and they can’t move fast enough to get out of the way. On the up side, they move slowly enough, they’re pretty easy to dodge, no violent maneuvers required.

    My brother hit a deer with his motorcycle a few years ago. Luckily it wasn’t a straight on hit…it was jumping into the road, saw him at the last second and tried to turn so they basically sideswiped each other, it got caught on his hardbag on the right side and he dragged it for 100 feet or so until he got stopped. Banged up his bike pretty good (wasn’t good for the deer either) and relatively minor injuries to his right leg, but he was able to keep the shiny side up which saved him from more serious harm.

  5. I’ve contemplated putting “bull bars” on my Tundra, but after talking to a few guys who’ve hit deer and pronghorn while driving trucks that had them, I’ve decided not to bother. Even the frame-mounted ones bend upwards enough with a direct hit on a big mule deer to do almost as much damage to the front end as not having them would do…and being bent, they’re hard to get off the frame.

    Being in NW Wyoming we frequently drive after dark in the winter to the next town over to visit friends, and there’s a particular patch of highway that’s prone to having the deer and the antelope play (with cars) on the 70 MPH limit highway. Last winter on that stretch we watched a car about a tenth-of-a-mile ahead of us light up their brakes, bounce suddenly, and then pull over to the side. I slowed down as fast as I could without locking-up or triggering the anti-lock, and still rolled over the rear legs of the deer laying in the lane; couldn’t dodge it because of oncoming traffic. I pulled over in front of the stopped car, grabbed the flashlight, and ran back to see if they needed help.

    About the only help he needed was for me to use the flashlight to flag and slow down the traffic while he hauled the (dead) deer over to the shoulder. We looked at the front end of his Escape, and aside from a busted headlight and some blood on the bumper, it seemed fine. His wife and small child were still strapped in (the kid in a kiddie seat) and were fine. I offered to help him gut the deer, but he was almost home and was going to call the sheriff and then come back with his brother and then gut and quarter the carcass. Only one shoulder of the deer was smashed so badly it couldn’t be butchered.

    All in all it was the least damage I’ve ever seen from a car/deer collision. In that circumstance, with a deep ditch off to the side of the highway, he did exactly the right thing in NOT trying to dodge it, but just light up the brakes and slow down as much as possible before nailing it. If he’d tried to miss it he’d probably have lost control and either gone into the oncoming traffic or rolled it when he hit the ditch.

    The only (knock wood) deer I’ve hit so far was right in town, when he stepped out from between two parked cars while looking the other way. I had just turned a corner and was doing about 5 MPH, and slammed on the brakes enough that it was the bumper rebounding upwards that tapped him. He jumped about 5 feet sideways, and then stood there looking at the truck like it had just materialized out of nowhere, then carefully looked both ways and finished crossing the street. Locally we’re referred to as the “petting zoo” because of so many mule deer running around town; they occasionally thin the herd through selective hunting to keep the numbers (and CWD) down.

  6. One little-recognized consequence of motorcycle-vs-deer accidents is anaphylaxis. 40 yrs ago I was working ER in Bangor Maine. We took care of a guy who center-punched a deer with his motorcycle, covering himself with the partially digested grass contents of the deer’s innards, against which he had a severe allergic reaction. If he had been further from the hospital he would have likely not survived the resulting airway obstruction.

  7. This is a junction where tech and woke could get us in big trouble. Imagine a self-driving car programmed with the latest PETA update?
    Like my 7 year old said once after me smucking a deer. No, what’s bad is I’m not getting any jerky out of the deal!

  8. The kid needs some training on the comparative performance differences between cars vs SUV’s, vans, and trucks. Cars generally only roll when they impact an obstacle, but the others can roll almost anywhere/anytime, with injudicious application of the steering, along with some braking.
    I’ve righted a lot of them after finding them sitting on their side or roof, in the middle of the highway, never having hit anything. They were all driveable when I got done, although some drivers aren’t willing to drive off, but wanted it towed away.
    It helps if the driver turns off the engine before climbing out, as some fuel injected vehicles will run while laying sideways.

    • This kid hit a steep bank and broke the upper ball joint of the passenger side front wheel. It wasn’t one that drivable…

      • In the early 00’s, I started to encounter broken ball joints on newish vehicles. Appears that with CAD/CAM and the push to lighten vehicles as much as possible for better fuel economy, the former builtin fudge factor for adequate strength of critical parts went away. Prior to that I had NEVER seen or heard of a broken ball joint on any vehicle.

  9. One motorcycle rider I met had the nickname of “deerslayer”, as he had hit 8 deer by that time (25 years ago). IIRC, his custom CA license plate said that. The one deer that had put him into the hospital was while in his toyota pickup. I think they were all hit on mountain roads around the SF Bay Peninsula.

    The deer on Skyline road were really odd, you could come onto a group of them standing around in the middle of the road in a fog at night, and they wouldn’t move, forcing you to zigzag around them on your bike.

  10. I was coming back from a long hike in 2018, horrible day it was around 11:30pm with an empty road in front of me. Deer right in the middle of it. Reacted, swerved left to avoid it while braking and took the deer down the right side. Car was still drivable but did thousands in damage.

    Only thought at the time was: “Do not take it head on” A quartering impact reduces the chance of it coming through the windshield. Second deer collision in my life, first I was behind the wheel for. Both quartering hits by intent.

    If you can’t avoid the impact, lose energy and take it at the best angle. Some of these skills you can only learn through time behind the wheel. Comparatively speaking, a few months with a license and only rolled it onto its side? Could have been a lot worse. He lived to talk about it and will learn how to deal better instinctively if there is every a next time.

    I learned a lot of my road survival skills on a motorcycle. Saved my ass a few weeks ago when an elderly woman pulled out of nowhere in front of my and I took my car offroading. Avoid T-bone, avoid pickup in opposite lane, grass and open ditch beats trees. At that point it was just me and I can always replace the car (even though I’d prefer not to as it was a birthday gift).

    Smaller critters I will not turn the wheel for. Bye bye squirrel!

    • Had a friend who was riding in a car that hit a deer in the front quarter, Deer tumbled down the side of the car, with the hooves striking some of the passengers through the windows. Not a good result. He was panicked if a deer was seen near the road while in a moving vehicle, as a result.

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