We were returning from my grandmother's house on a dark, winter night when a deer jumped out in front of our car. Actually, it almost seemed to land on the hood, causing my mother to swerve and slam on the brakes. It was a terrible incident that left all of us incredibly shaken, not to mention the extreme damage that was done to the family car.
And this year there's an even greater chance that deer will cause dangers on the roadways.
Last year's mild winter and minimal snow fall caused an increase in the deer population now. Usually, the graceful animals become easy prey for predators, such as coyote, which can move better on the slick, crusty ice. So, less deer died last year and now, the animals are entering mating season which runs from late October through December.
Howard Kilpatrick of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection says drivers need to be even more careful than usual: "Especially if you're traveling at a fast speed."
Kilpatrick advises us to wear our seatbelts and drive slowly at dawn, dusk or after dark, especially in known trouble spots, such as the Merritt Parkway. Navigating carefully will provide us with more time to react. "Stay alert, be prepared and be cautious," says Kilpatrick.
If it's too late to react easily, should we hit the deer or swerve? Kilpatrick says, it depends on the situation. On a quiet, side road, you might be able to quickly bypass the deer. But, on a busy highway, it is less risky to hit the animal than veer into traffic.
Also: if you avoid one, don't assume you're in the clear. "You almost always see two or three deer in a group," says Kilpatrick, noting that during this season, it is common for bucks to be chasing does.
Years ago, when I was working nights for Fox CT and living in Fairfield County, I attached those special whistles to my old Saab, in an attempt to prevent an accident such as the one I had as a child.
It's important to be watchful to ensure the safety of everyone in the car...especially our frequent passengers...our kids.