Recently Carl G. Roe executive director of the state Game Commission, wrote and asked drivers to be exceptionally cautious while driving in the fall months. There is some exceptional reasoning in this request because individuals who work with wildlife all their life know that statistics do not lie.
Those statistics prove that environmental conditions and species' related actions vary individually and fall months are most likely to be the most fatal for deer, bear, turkeys and other forms of wild game.
To prove a point, there were more than l00,000 deer hit by automobiles during 2011 in Pennsylvania and that totaled more than $1 billion in damages.
PHOTO COURTESY OF DON DAUGHENBAUGH
A white-tailed buck stares at the cameraman.
However, those figures tell us only some of the problems because people who teach driving skills and have driven more than 1 million miles a year without a fender bender tell us a different story. It's all about the mental philosophy of drivers who apply the speed limits of interstate highways to roads that see constant use by wildlife.
We can jaw about being a safe driver in those critical areas, but getting into the head of an aggressive driver is very, very difficult. Some drivers fail to recognize the fact that, when you enter wildlife habitat, you must slow down and adjust your speed.
A deer in the middle of the road must be treated visually different from one on the berm or standing on a bank. You see the animal in the middle of the road and hopefully can avoid a collision, and a defensive driver knows that and leaves himself an out by slowing down or even stopping if it's safe to do so.
A good defensive driver recognizes the fact that it's those animals along the berm or bank that are the most likely to slam into a vehicle. You have to think like those animals and expect them to panic or try to jump in the path of an automobile.
I know of three family instances where deer jumped on the hood of a car. In one case, the deer ended up in the front seat of the automobile - alive and kicking.
After losing her right eye and being air-lifted to Hershey Medical Center, the driver survived.
Again, good defensive drivers adjust their speed during the critical hours - at sunup, sundown and during the rut periods of October through November.
We need to practice driving by getting a big picture visually as we drive. That implies that you see what is in the front, rear and to the left and right of your vehicle.
Critical collision areas for drivers are fields that offer food or cover for animals and, particularly, watering holes. We have to expect animals to be on the roads and respond to those conditions and be defensive drivers.
That way, with a little luck, we can avoid collisions with animals that make Pennsylvania their home and were here long before man arrived. Remember, we are, in reality, visitors, while they just are trying to survive in a state that has one of the greatest populations of wildlife in the U.S. They are our best friends.