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Vanaski: Pa. not seeing the light on deer-vehicle crashes

| Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, 12:15 a.m.

Late last year, I shared the agony involved in shopping for a new car. You know that reputation that used-car salesmen have? Some people who sell their own cars possess a thicker layer of slime. (You know who you are.)

Mercifully, we found a reasonably priced 2002 Lexus sedan, which became our family's first car made in the 21st century, replacing a 1990 Volvo wagon. The new ride had leather seats, a crappy cup holder and was very shiny. We liked it a lot.

Do you know what else likes shiny cars? Deer. I only know this because one of them sought out the side of my car a couple off weeks ago as I was entering a highway on-ramp. I absolutely had the right-of-way. Fortunately, I was unscathed. No, the deer didn't make it.

And while the car was somehow able to leave the scene under its own power, it was determined that it will now spend its remaining life in a convalescence home, also known as the salvage yard.

Being a native city dweller, I had never been involved in a collision with a deer before. It didn't take long for me to realize, however, that I was previously among a minority of people statewide who hadn't.

Pennsylvania has the highest occurrence of deer-vehicle collisions and accidents in the nation with nearly 115,000, according to a State Farm insurance analysis. North Carolina is No. 2 on the list with about half that — somewhere around 59,270 incidents.

Last year, 14 people died from deer-vehicle crashes in the state, and 1,352 were injured, according to PennDOT statistics.

The main approach used to thin out the deer herd is hunting, and that got off this week to a slow start. Luckily, there's plenty of time for that to pick up, and it usually does. Deer harvests — as the state Gaming Commission calls them — have increased each year since a slight dip in 2009. In 2011-12, about 336,200 deer kills were reported. Yet PennDOT also reported an increase in deer injuries and fatalities in that time frame.

So it's probably not a bad idea to work on a Plan B to help protect motorists and deer. For example, in Canada, where deer, moose and even Sasquatch can be found crossing the road, officials decided to try a motion-sensor device that picks up movement on the sides of the road and alerts drivers with flashing yellow lights. It's a promising idea and one that other states are considering or already using. But Pennsylvania, whose coat of arms should include dead deer on the side of a road, is not one of those states.

PennDOT information officer Steve Cowan said he was not aware of any plans to pursue the device, or any other preventive methods, such as additional fencing. Both can be expensive, but some would argue so is $3,414 — the average cost for a deer-vehicle collision.

Nafari Vanaski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8669, nvanaski@tribweb.com or on Twitter @NafariTrib.

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