Avoid deer, even if you can’t move to Hawaii

The Morning Call (Sunday) - - LOCAL NEWS -

Iat­tended col­lege in up­state New York, where I was part of a win­ning team of a “Jeop­ardy”-like trivia com­pe­ti­tion called Col­lege Bowl.

Some friends and

I put to­gether a team of four, but our last mem­ber never showed up.

He went home for some hunt­ing the day be­fore but didn’t so much as spot a deer. He was on his way home the morn­ing of the com­pe­ti­tion when his pickup truck slammed into an im­pres­sive buck.

His truck was badly dam­aged, but he still proudly strapped his kill to his hood and limped his pickup home.

Mo­torists and strug­gling deer hunters alike should keep that les­son in mind this time of year.

Dur­ing Oc­to­ber, Novem­ber and De­cem­ber, deer go into heat and start get­ting frisky. Their rag­ing hor­mones make them bolder, leav­ing them more likely to dart in front of your car in hopes of find­ing their soul mate on the other side of the road.

A sur­vey re­leased by State Farm this year de­ter­mined that 1 in 63 Pennsylvania driv­ers hit a deer last year. That rate ranked third in the coun­try be­hind West Vir­ginia (1 in 46) and Mon­tana (1 in 57).

Those find­ings sug­gest that Pennsylvania leads the coun­try in the to­tal num­ber of car ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing deer.

Although the sur­vey didn’t re­lease any raw num­bers, the three states with higher pop­u­la­tions — Cal­i­for­nia, Florida and New York — didn’t come any­where close to our ac­ci­dent rate. West Vir­ginia and Mon­tana don’t have pop­u­la­tions any­where near Pennsylvania’s.

That leaves Pennsylvania as the na­tion’s lead­ing pro­ducer of deer road kill. What a time to be alive.

By that logic, the safest and most ex­treme thing you can do to avoid hit­ting a deer is move to Hawaii. I’m sure most of my read­ers were look­ing for an ex­cuse to make the move, so here it is:

The State Farm sur­vey found driv­ers in the Aloha State have a 1 in 6,379 chance of hit­ting a deer with their car. That means you’re 100 times more likely to hit a deer with your car in Pennsylvania than in Hawaii.

For com­par­i­son’s sake, fans of the clas­sic “Star Wars” film “The Em­pire Strikes Back” may re­call the odds of suc­cess­fully nav­i­gat­ing an as­ter­oid field are ap­prox­i­mately 3,720 to 1. Han Solo couldn’t hit a deer in Hawaii if he tried.

The av­er­age an­i­mal col­li­sion causes about $2,730 worth of dam­age, so in­sur­ance com­pa­nies have a vested in­ter­est in help­ing you avoid any un­gu­lates.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the in­sur­ance in­dus­try of­fers tips on best prac­tices for avoid­ing these ac­ci­dents. They’re a lit­tle more prac­ti­cal than mov­ing to Hawaii, so they should be of more use to you.

Ac­cord­ing to State Farm, the best thing you can do is to re­main alert and at­ten­tive to the road, par­tic­u­larly at dawn and dusk when deer are most ac­tive.

You should never let food or a mo­bile de­vice take your at­ten­tion away from the road, but dusk in deer sea­son is a par­tic­u­larly aw­ful time to start.

That goes es­pe­cially for driv­ers in ru­ral ar­eas, who are more likely to en­counter deer than peo­ple in ur­ban set­tings.

If you see one deer, slow down and look for more. Deer tend to travel in small herds, so if you come across one, ex­pect to find oth­ers. Turn on your high beams for bet­ter vis­i­bil­ity, but don’t to blind on­com­ing driv­ers.

Some ur­ban leg­ends sug­gest you speed up be­fore hit­ting a deer. That’s a bad idea, but there is a cer­tain logic to it.

Hit­ting the brakes low­ers the hood of your car, turn­ing it into a launch­ing ramp for the soon to be deer car­cass. The prob­lem is it in­creases the force of the col­li­sion, mak­ing for a danger­ous, grue­some ex­er­cise in physics.

In­stead, if you can’t avoid hit­ting the deer, hit the brakes but re­lease the pedal right be­fore im­pact. That should re­duce the force of the crash but lets your grille serve as a pro­tec­tive bar­rier.

I’ve not found any in­sur­ance com­pa­nies that rec­om­mend peo­ple use deer whis­tles, de­vices that at­tach to your car and cre­ate an ul­tra­sonic sound that’s sup­posed to star­tle deer. Some peo­ple swear by them, but stud­ies are in­con­clu­sive that the whis­tles do any­thing. Some in­sur­ance com­pa­nies like GEICO ad­vise against them, likely un­der the fear that the whis­tles will give mo­torists a false sense of se­cu­rity.

— Mark Mine­tola, Sal­is­bury Town­ship

A: The Hamil­ton Street Bridge is one of 558 bridges the state placed in a rapid bridge re­place­ment pro­ject back in 2014. Un­der the deal, the busi­ness con­sor­tium Ple­nary Walsh Key­stone Part­ners would fix or re­place the small, state-owned bridges in three years as well as main­tain them for the next 20 years for $899 mil­lion.

Well, that hasn’t gone to plan — the state had to ex­tend Ple­nary Walsh’s dead­line by four months and pony up on another $43 mil­lion for the work.

The four-lane Hamil­ton Street Bridge hit a snag im­me­di­ately. Con­struc­tion started a week late in Fe­bru­ary due to freez­ing cold, and Ple­nary Walsh spokesman Rory McGlas­son said Mother Na­ture hasn’t made things much eas­ier since then.

Con­struc­tion crews dis­cov­ered an un­der­ground well in the lime­stone bedrock the hard way, which has led to re­cur­ring flood­ing. Crews also had to con­tend with reg­u­lar flood­ing due to the unusu­ally wet sum­mer we ex­pe­ri­enced.

At this point, the pro­ject won’t be com­pleted un­til late spring or early sum­mer, McGlas­son said.

“We’re con­stantly de­wa­ter­ing the site,” McGlas­son said. “It’s been a con­stant bat­tle.”

Ple­nary Walsh is also han­dling the con­struc­tion of the Hamil­ton Boule­vard Bridge over the Iron Run in Up­per Ma­cungie Town­ship.

This pro­ject has also been de­layed, but not nearly to the same ex­tent. McGlas­son said the con­struc­tion should be fin­ished in early Jan­uary in­stead of De­cem­ber.

road­war­[email protected] Twit­ter @TShort­ell 610-820-6161


A State Farm sur­vey found 1 in 63 Pennsylvania driv­ers hit a deer last year, a risk that’s es­pe­cially high at this time of year.

Tom Short­ell

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