President's Perspective

Picture this: It’s a cool autumn night as you drive home from work. Without warning, a deer runs across the highway and you hit it. The collision damages the vehicle, kills the deer and might have injured you or your passengers. An unusual event? Perhaps in the heart of Vancouver or Halifax, but a common occurrence in much of rural Canada.

Naturally, the numbers of animals and vehicles in a particular area have a direct bearing on the number of road kills. For example, Ontario’s Manitoulin Island, an area of low traffic volume, reports around 100 deer are killed each year of a total deer population estimated at 15,000. This compares with south-western Ontario, where some counties report over 100 deer killed in a single fall month.

In the late fall, the mating season begins and bucks tend to wander along highways. The hazard increases as deer begin their annual winter migration. In the southern parts of Canada, the migration time may differ slightly because of varying terrain and weather conditions.

Road crossings are more common at certain times of day. The greatest percentage of road kills occurs after dusk, when deer are actively feeding. When driving through wildlife-prone areas at night, keep your headlights on high beam as much as possible and keep the windshield and headlights as clean as practicable. This will increase the distance at which you might see an animal, giving you more time to take appropriate action.

At night, deer behave in an unexpected fashion. After a deer crosses the road in front of a vehicle, the driver often speeds up only to have his grill redesigned. The deer, blinded by the car lights, may try to return to the safety of the area it just vacated. If you see a deer or other animal on the roadside, slow down, switch your headlight to low beam and beep your horn to attract the animal’s attention well in advance. If it doesn’t move, be prepared to stop.

Large animals, such as deer, bear, and moose aren’t the only moving hazards on the roads. Our highways are also plagued by such fur-bearing animals as beavers, raccoons, foxes, muskrats and skunks.

Even cats, dogs and livestock can be problematic from drivers. Defensive driving and never letting your guard down against animal hazards is a must. It’s the driver’s responsibility to avoid collisions with deer or other animals, since they were here long before us. Besides, we humans are the more intelligent creatures. Let’s prove it.

Safety, it’s an attitude.