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Driving is dangerous when deer are distracted

November 02, 2000

Driving is dangerous when deer are distracted



By JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer


Brake, beep and keep an eye out for more deer.

That's the advice Tom Flowers has for drivers this time of year, which is the "rut," or mating, season for deer.

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Flowers might not have the best track record for avoiding deer, but he has plenty of experience when it comes to deer running into his headlights.

As a morning newspaper carrier on a rural route for the last 11 years, Flowers said he has collided with deer 40 to 50 times.

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"The deer hit me," said Flowers, 40, of Hancock, who delivers The Morning Herald and teaches physical education at E. Russell Hicks Middle School.

Flowers estimates that approximately 15 of those deer died. The rest bumped his vehicle as he covered 130 miles of rural roads each night, typically between 3 and 6 a.m.

"They're really bad from November 1st till about the middle of December," said Flowers, who drives with his thumbs on the horn.

Mating season for deer usually peaks in the first week of November, said Bob Mitchell, editor of Game News Magazine for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

"The bucks have nothing else on their mind," said Flowers, who has seen a buck chase a doe across the road in front of him.

It is that second or third deer that people might forget to watch for, Flowers said. They may be watching the first deer cross safely when the second deer hits their car, he said.

Deer, especially does and fawns, travel in small groups at this time of the year, Mitchell said. They travel in larger groups during winter.

Deer are nocturnal, which explains why Flowers has had so many encounters with the animals during his early morning drives, Mitchell said.

Flowers said he often drives in foggy conditions as well, contributing to his deer collision history.

Flowers said he's never been hurt, perhaps because he rarely reaches a high rate of speed as he stops often to deliver the newspapers.

His last major deer collision came on the night before Thanksgiving last year. It caused $2,700 damage to his car.

The most memorable of his collisions was four years ago as he was passing a wooded area on Sideling Hill in the fog and rain.

A four-point buck came running out of the yard just past the woods, hit the right front fender, broke the windshield and rolled over the hood and the side of his 1989 Ford Escort.

The car was totaled, he said.

Flowers said he's not sure of the total monetary damage deer collisions have caused to the five vehicles he's driven on the job, but knows it's more than $50,000 in radiator, grill, windshield and headlight damage.

He usually drives with deer whistles on the front of his car. The funnel-shaped devices make a high-frequency sound that deer can hear, supposedly warning them away from vehicular traffic.

Although wildlife experts said studies haven't shown the whistles make a difference, Flowers believes in them.

He has not hit a deer in quite a while, Flowers said hesitantly, afraid he would jinx himself.

"But the rut is coming," he said.

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