The wonder of split-second timing

DeerI had one of those “There but for the grace of God go I” experiences today that surely has to be a chance in a million. At least.

On the way to meet Ronna Porter for lunch in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire (and we had a terrific time, incidentally). I’m driving from Wokingham so I go via Eversley, onto the A30 and into Hartley Wintney. It’s about 14 miles in total, takes about 25 minutes.

So I’m on the A30 just at the start of the section that becomes a dual carriageway before you get to Hartley Wintney when, suddenly, four deer burst out from the forest at the side of the road right where I am, intent on getting across the four-lane road. They don’t seem to notice me and my car.

Visualize it – I’m doing 50mph, good conditions, no other vehicles nearby, paying attention to the road nevertheless, and I’m in the midst of wild animals moving at a blurring pace.

Replaying the scene in my mind, it seems like it was all in slow motion. One deer ran right in front of me. One other right behind me. Another still, not sure where that one was, probably behind as well.

One, though, didn’t make it. Instead, it slammed into the side of the car. There was an almighty whack! as it hit. Remember, I was doing 50mph although I’d instinctively started braking when I saw the deer emerge from the trees so my speed was probably down to about 30mph.

By now, I’d slowed almost to a stop but had travelled onwards a good 70 feet or so. Looking in my rear-view mirror, I could see three deer racing across the road – they’d made the central reservation divider by this time – and the one that had collided with me had clearly been knocked flat.

But thankfully, I could see it struggling to its feet and, with a few shakes of its head, it was up and away following the other deer. Very quickly, all disappeared into the trees on the other side of the carriageway.

So no apparent injury to the animal, thanks goodness.

Can’t say the same for the car, though, as I saw when I reached my destination just 5 minutes or so later – nearside rear passenger door badly dented in multiple places. (A call to my insurance company later this afternoon has a repair claim process started.)

Isn’t it just the weirdest timing that, at the very moment I’m there on that spot on the road – the only vehicle in either direction as far as you could see – four deer emerge from the trees wanting to get across? What are the odds of that, I wonder.

What I think about in particular, though, is that it was literally split seconds in the timing that made the difference between a shaken deer with only a big headache instead of a head-on collision with an animal that I’m sure would have produced a death plus God knows what else.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Allan Jenkins

    You are fortunate, Neville… clipping a deer throws a couple of hundred kilos into your front seat. I’m told that airbags rarely open in such cases and that no one in the front seat walks away. Count yourself lucky.

    When I drive up in Sweden, I often see signs warning of moose (“elg”). I used to chuckle about them until I met people who knew people who had hit them.

  2. Kevin Dugan

    Allan’s right. Cars can be totalled in head-on deer collisions. It sounds comical and you’d never think this would be the case. It was indeed one of those moments.

  3. neville

    Fortunate indeed, Allan. All the deer were young, judging by their sizes, and does, judging by the lack of antlers. Kevin, it just doesn’t bear thinking about!

    I was amazed too, Matt. The impact was sufficient to shift the car slightly sideways as I drove.

    Be sure I’ll be back, Ronna!

  4. Armin

    The lack of antlers doesn’t necessarily mean they were does. At this time of year it probably does, but not generally.

  5. Coralie Thomson

    Sounds like you were very lucky Neville. The same thing happened to me once on the A1066 between Diss and Thetford – unfortunately neither the deer nor my car escaped so lightly!

  6. neville

    Yes, lucky indeed, Coralie.

    Insurance assessor estimates car repair cost at about £900. Ouch! Thank goodness for comp insurance.

    I just found an interesting resource re deer and collisions with vehicles. I never knew deer and cars, etc, were such an issue in the UK.

    So I’ve reported my incident to them hoping it adds to their knowledge.

  7. Tabita

    Lucky escape Nev! I ditto Allan’s comment about driving in Sweden, hitting an elk/moose is one of the biggest killers on the roads there. When I did my skid pan practice (obligatory in Sweden to get your driving licence) we had big bales thrown at us from the side to simulate a deer hopping out in front of you, to make sure you react in the right way.

    It certainly is a split second event. We have a dead deer laying outside the drive of our stables at the moment, someone has killed it while driving and just thrown it into the ditch – it stinks!!!

    Word of advise – if you ever see one deer at either side of the road, always slow down, the chance of there being another one is very high and they are easily startled so may jump out even if you don’t think it looks like it.

  8. neville

    Thanks for that tip, Tabita.

    If I had seen deer, I definitely would have slowed down, just in case. But these four just burst out of the trees.

    Thinking back to the event, I don’t recall seeing a deer warning sign on the road. There must have been one, though, as on my return journey, I did see one on the other side, about 100 yards or so before the spot where the deer appeared.

    I bet there is one that is obscured by vegetation. I’ll look next time I’m on that stretch of the A30.

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