I was driving in rural Washington State this past Friday at dawn, and struck and killed a deer that jumped in front of me as I was driving around 65-70MPH on a state highway. The deer died instantly, the car was heavily damaged, but reparable, and noone in the car was hurt at all, thank heaven.
It all happened so quickly, much of the experience is a blur. But, I do think a couple of things I did and did not do probably avoided any of us in the car getting hurt or killed. I have talked with some safety and insurance people as part of my de-brief, and they concur that given the circumstances, I did the right thing.
Specifically, I did not swerve or try to avoid the collision. I gripped the wheel, held the course, braked and let things happen. Had I tried steering out of the way to avoid hitting the deer, I likely would still have hit it, but going a fast speed, albeit the posted limit, there was a risk of rolling the car and since it was a narrow road, the car could have careened a number of yards into the ditch and ravine off the road.
I am not happy about what happened, and it is one of those experiences where in hndsight one could ask, could I have avoided the incident driving a bit slower, brights on, not off, driving a different time of day, etc, etc. Will never know, the deer just appeared out of nowhere. But, by the same token, things could have been much worse, even tragically so, even with some differences in how I was driving.
Today's cars are designed to abosrb the impact of a collision and keep the people inside the car as safe as possible. In this case, the car did what it was designed to do. I pass this along as food for thought for people who find themselves driving in areas where deer and other large animals are present. As awful an experience as it was to hit and kill this animal, I am hugely relieved that I handled the car the way I did, and as a result, nobody in my family that was driving with me was hurt or killed.