Oh Deer…

Stephanie Martin
Well it has been over five years, but it is always too soon to have a run in with a deer on the highway. The last time I had a run in with a deer I was close to Fullarton, just coming out of the curves, by the ballpark, and BAM, a deer leaped out in front of me and I knocked him (or her) somersaulting into the opposite ditch. The first thought that came to me is ‘What Do I Do?’ My insurance agent lived just up the road, maybe I should just drive there (small town thought!)? Did I need to call the police? Should I pull over? But as the smoke (or steam) began pouring out of the hood of my car, I knew I needed to pull over immediately. Fortunately, I was right at the farm of a family I knew. I quickly pulled in and they helped me from there.
Flash forward to this past week when a deer, out of the dark, slammed into the front side of my friend’s car as we were driving to Listowel with two of our kids, one km from our destination. It was a dark rainy evening and the car that had just passed us going the opposite way must have blocked our view so we couldn’t see the deer. I thought that initially we had been hit by that car, Julie (our steady driver) thought that something must have fallen off the passing vehicle. But Max (my 12yr old) had seen it, the head of a huge buck, hitting the windshield for a split second. He described him as the big buck from “Open Season.” We pulled over and moved to relative safety onto the slim shoulder of 23 highway followed by another car. I assessed the cars and everyone was okay. We were in no imminent or occurring danger, (a favourite phrase of mine) when all of the same questions came from Julie. Should we call 911? Is it okay to move and what do I do? Well, the one answer I didn’t know for sure is, can we move off of the highway? I decided we were not waiting on hwy 23 for any length of time in the dark, and the car behind us had a young girl driving (25 is young to me). She also didn’t know what to do. So I made the decision to get us all to the Walmart parking lot in a safe fashion. Everyone’s car was drivable, but I assessed ours was not doing any sharp left hand turns with the front quarter panel being shoved in, so Walmart could work. Julie was covered in little pieces of glass and I knew it was less safe to move or get out on 23 to clean her up. It was far less safe in the dark and we only had about a foot of shoulder. So off we went, our wobbling posse of deer damaged vehicles, 10km/hr on the shoulder to the Walmart Parking lot, where we would assess the situation and call 911.
Julie had worried that her windshield would fall in, but I knew, I was told somewhere in my life, windshields are held together with a seal so they don’t fall in or shatter. We pieced together what happened (after I got Julie out of her bent door and cleaned all of the tiny pieces of glass off of her). The girl explained we hit the deer (or it hit us), the car in between us swerved, (which I have always been told not to do) and then she drove over the big buck. She was clearly a daughter of a farm family since she looked pretty calm about the whole thing. She had a guy meet her there and they had a bit of a laugh and explained it was their first date. That made me laugh and I said, well this is either going to be a great story in ten years, or you will say, ‘I should have known when I hit that deer…’ We all had a good laugh and froze while waiting for the police to arrive (another fun memory for a first date, ‘remember when the police arrived?’). I answered the questions from the police officer (and realized I should have worn my winter coat) and Julie dealt with insurance and CAA, (we make a good crisis team). The young girl said she had thought about calling for insurance on Monday and (after I suggested she probably should let her dad know) she thought we were very fast. I explained we were old and this wasn’t our first “rodeo”.
After the dust had settled I asked the officer the answers to the frequently asked questions. Should we have moved the vehicles? He said Absolutely YES and that we please spread the word, IF your car is drivable, move it to a safer place! They can piece it together at a safer location off of the highway. For everyone’s safety, including secondary help. Never remove your seat belts when on the side of the highway in case you are hit (hence the plan of moving the heck off of the highway). Secondary accidents are frequent and often tragic.
Second question, YES you are required to call the police IF the damage to the vehicle(s) collectively is over $2,000.00 OR if anyone is injured. You will need the police report for your insurance agency. Now, in Listowel (I don’t know about anywhere else) they do not give a physical paper report anymore (for the last 3 months), just a report number. He also said if your insurance agency requests the report, they will use this number to obtain the report, which costs $50. He also said that is the responsibility and expense of the insurance company, and that you can go get it and pay for it if you like but it is their responsibility and expense.
And one last thing, according to my hunter brother-in-law the deer everywhere right now are “frisky” (edited) and stupid! Keep an eye out and slow down, you may see them near wooded areas. Ask around in the area where they cross the highways. Both sides of Fullarton and at the top of the hill near McCullys are reportedly bad. Regardless it is best to keep an eye out and stay safe! And watch for Rudolph!