By Leo Chiaet
It was about 1 o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday, November 7 . As I made a turn onto Passaic Avenue, I gradually increased my speed. I was driving in a Ford Expedition, and it is a very large vehicle. It does not gain speed incredibly quickly, nor does it stop incredibly gracefully. My older brother was in the front seat, and my two little sisters were in the back. My brother told my little sister that she couldn’t sit in the front seat because that was for him. Everyone had opened their car windows because it was a bit hot, but I was so concerned with driving on Passaic Avenue that I just kept mine up. We just drove by Shoprite when my brother shouted something about a deer.
Deer are not very heavy. On average, an adult male is only 150 pounds. It only seemed heavy to me because of how hard it had impacted into the windshield. It turned out that this deer had crossed from the left side. It would have been a clear cross, had it not run into my truck. Just before my truck was about to intercept it, the deer jumped. Its whole body was impacted onto the driver’s side windshield. It caused the window to crack like a spider web, and cave in as if a really big, hairy bug was caught in it.
Before the point of impact, my Ford Expedition was travelling just under 40 mph. I was trying to keep up with the speed limit when this happened. Because of the rules of momentum, the body of the deer was thrown up and away from my view. It had also completely removed my driver’s side mirror in its ascension off my window.
I had seen the image of a deer bash against the windshield, and I had heard a most terrifying and loud noise. That noise was the sound of a deer shriek, mixed with breaking glass and my own screams. Right after the impact I was not in the most cooperative mood. There were pieces of small glass all over me and even bits in my mouth. I was frazzled and shouting expletives only to find my entire view of the road was turned into a spider web.
My brother calmed me down as I pulled over to the side of Passaic Ave. My sister complained that she smelled a pungent stench of wild deer. A good-willed driver pulled over behind us, and then another on the other side. One of them was a mother of my sister’s classmates. They checked to make sure we were okay, and then called the police. I was still cursing automatically. The police arrived within the minute. Officer Joy checked in on me, asked for license, registration, and insurance.
The deer could not be found. This deer had jumped into the windshield of a 40 mph Ford Expedition, and yet the police could find no trace of it. The drivers testified about what had happened, but it still seemed amazing to me that the deer had either been flung that far into the forest. Another possibility loomed that the deer had actually survived, and was limping out into the forest like a hardened veteran, struggling to get to deer-topia.
There had apparently been two other cases that day of deer-related car accidents. It was 1 o’clock in the afternoon, and I was the third case of a deer car accident. Which is odd anyway. Most deer related incidents occur at either daybreak or dusk because those are the times deer activity is the highest. I guess this particular deer was running late.
Around this time of year, late October early November, the deer go into mating season, which for the deer is called a “rut.” Because of the rut, deer act crazy and do things like cross the street without looking both ways.
I looked in the side mirror for damages done to the rest of the car. I had no side mirror. I got out of my car and saw a tuft of deer hair lodged into the window. And then I watched as my vehicle was towed away.
For me, this was a situation of chaos and pure destruction. Usually deer collisions are not enjoyable, but for me, I can assume I had the less enjoyable spectrum of the case. For me, everything happened in half a second. But for most people, these kinds of things happen in some more time, and people can prepare themselves.
If I had seen the deer, I should have slowed down and watched for any sudden movements, similar to how you might if there were a pack of middle-schoolers crossing the street. You should always be wary because if there is one deer you can see, then there’s probably another you cannot see. At night, use high beams so that potential deer are more visible, and pay attention to deer crossing signs.
The most important part is to keep your head. In my case, I did this better than I thought. I did not swerve after impact, I did not speed up. I slowed down and pulled over. The car was already designed for this kind of incident. The pieces of glass all over me were harmless. The car’s windows were meant to cave in at such an impact, so that the whole window wouldn’t collapse. What people need to know about this situation, was that we are perfectly safe from deer crashes, and the biggest danger we pose is to ourselves, either through panic or reckless maneuvers. Just remember to keep your eyes on the road, your judgement sharp, and to be a little more careful on Passaic Avenue, especially in that wooded area.