Sometimes, we feel like it’s beating a dead horse when we urge residents to go the extra mile to drive safely. Or maybe we should say, beating a dead deer.

It’s that time of year again, when officials say large herds of deer are out and about, usually at dawn and dusk. It’s the rut season, and deer “go crazy,” say those who know the habits of these creatures.

But the truth is more complicated. Residents of certain areas know the deer are a hazard to drivers year-round — and during all times of the day and night. Many people have suggested an extended hunting season — or at least a longer rifle season — to cull some of the numbers. So far, those pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

Every year, dozens of people are killed or injured in collisions involving deer crossing the highway. There’s no way to predict when or where it will happen, because although the animals are more prevalent in rural areas, they’re also known to menace outlying city streets. Almost at any given moment, a deer carcass can be seen along every stretch of highway in the region. One Arkansas naturalist joked that this could be the reason so many black vultures are flocking to certain areas of the state.

But accidents involving deer are no laughing matter; just ask anyone who has spent a hefty deductible getting a vehicle fixed, or who has had a vehicle totaled and been forced to buy a new one. And then, inevitably, the victim’s insurance goes up. Considering individuals who drink and drive, text and drive, or engage in other distracting behaviors behind the wheel, it’s a wonder any of us can afford car insurance.

It’s been suggested that drivers slow down during the rut. But since rural residents know deer are a threat at any time of year, that’s not practical. A driver would need to crawl along at 20 or 30 mph to avoid any deer that suddenly bolted across the roadway. And with the extended workdays and long commutes many people undertake, that could mean spending about a quarter of the day behind the wheel.

There are no studies definitively proving that deer whistles or horns work to make the beasts shy away from oncoming vehicles, but some insurance agents recommend them. The best course of action for drivers is to always be wary, looking every direction and refusing to become distracted for any reason: a cell phone, a pet in the back seat, a loud radio, or the sight of a cute girl in a short skirt on a crosswalk. Absolute vigilance could prevent disaster with a deer.

Be careful, folks.

— The Tahlequah Daily Press

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