The Risks of Emergency Responses

I sometimes write about my fantastic experiences as a volunteer medic. Yet sometimes the experience isn’t so fantastic.

All emergency responders put themselves at great risk whenever they go on a call. This is a story of not beating the odds (but it could have been a lot worse).

False Alarm

Thursday night there was a really hairy ambulance call right on top of a less-serious one. We normally have two — two — ambulances on duty in our 550-square-mile county. I had “the feeling” I would be called out while the two ambulances were busy, and stayed dressed for quite some time, but things settled down without another call, so I went to bed. It was 2:30 by then.

Happily, I wasn’t even awakened by my pager all night.

But “my” call still came — while I was in the shower Friday morning. Luckily I was all rinsed off already; when my pager went off I turned off the water to listen. Yep, it was for me. I quickly dried off, jumped into my clothes, and got going. (Nice I didn’t forget that middle step, eh?)


Since I’m the Captain of the First Responder team, my SUV is decked out with lights and a siren — perhaps, when it started its job in late 2007, it was the first hybrid emergency vehicle in the state. I roll on every call I’m able to: most of the other volunteers have much less experience, and it gives them confidence to know that backup is on the way.

In a rural area like this, where there aren’t that many ambulance calls, volunteer medics tend to get a bit …excited by a call. After many years as a police cadet and a medic in an urban area (including downtown San Francisco), then as sheriff’s deputy and again as a medic in a rural area, I don’t get excited by calls anymore.

Sure, I find them interesting, challenging, and satisfying in that I can help someone, but I remain, as a colleague once remarked about my demeanor, “supernaturally calm.” That just may have saved my life this day.


There was more traffic on the road than usual, and while it was a potentially serious call — a relatively young person possibly having a stroke — I didn’t feel like I had to be in too much of a hurry. I pushed a little, but not too hard, watching the other cars carefully, and passing only when totally safe.

There’s a long stretch of nicely paved, straight as an arrow road on the way to where I was going. It was clear, sunny, warm, and dry, and, on that stretch, no cars! With those sorts of conditions you can go pretty fast and not worry too much about the risk (but we always know that risks are there).

One increase in the risk: there are a couple of small hills that cut off the view ahead as you’re rolling up them. I usually slow down by taking my foot off the gas as I go up those hills, get a look to see what’s on the far side, and then make a new decision about how fast I want to go. I followed that pattern Friday morning.

After getting to the top of the first rise, I got a look, and it was an immediate “Uh oh!” moment. There were three deer on the right, in the roadside ditch, feeding on the weeds below road level. The two does, startled by my siren, went over the fence — away from the road. But a two-point buck went the other other way, leaping right in front of me.

My “new decision” was to brake hard, but I was going 55 mph (the road was designed for a 45 mph limit), and barely had my foot on the pedal before impact. I’m surprised my little SUV was as hardy as it was, and stood up this well to the assault:

My car, after hitting a buck at 55 mph
After hitting a buck at 55 mph. Under the crunched hood, there’s a chunk of fur, and another bit near the blown-out driving light. My emergency lights, and the siren speaker (cut off on the bottom right), all survived fully intact (though that upper grille light bracket may be bent). In the left-middle of the windshield, there’s some spattered blood….


I had long ago made the decision that I would not swerve to avoid animals, whether on a Sunday drive or on an emergency response: I’ve seen way too many people swerve in hopes of missing an animal only to roll over, often with catastrophic injuries resulting. Had I swerved, especially at that speed, I would likely have hit the ditch the deer were in and rolled, and I could well have been killed.

Instead, my “supernatural calmness” served me well: I held the car straight and essentially made a panic stop on the clean, dry, pavement. Anti-lock brakes made it a lot easier to keep it straight. The buck, coming from the right side, took quite a forceful impact from the right-front of the car in the early part of that stopping effort.

Side view of the damage.
This also shows better where the deer were: in the ditch, just this side of the fence.

The buck, a two-pointer (I didn’t count them at the time, but I did notice at the time that his antlers were covered in nice velvet), was clearly killed instantly. While I could see from the driver’s seat that my SUV sustained quite a bit of body damage, it was still driveable.

I advised dispatch (and the sheriff’s deputy rolling from the other direction to the same call) of the incident and, knowing I was still closer than anyone else to the serious medical call, I drove on. I didn’t even take the time to stop and assess the damage: I had a job to do, which also helped keep me calm after a pretty serious accident. (I like calm!)

A straight, straight road.
Straight and dry. The first rise, and the impact spot, are behind where I’m standing to take this. You can see the second, and larger, rise in the far distance. I was travelling in the direction you’re looking. And yeah, that’s a sheriff’s squad car parked in front of me: FJ Cruisers are terrific when the deputies respond up jeep roads.

First In

It took a few more minutes to get to my destination. As always, I grabbed my stuff from the back and headed in, taking only a quick glance at the damage. I was about 10 minutes ahead of the ambulance, and was able to start treatment on the patient, get their history and list of medications, calm down a very upset granddaughter and, when they got there, help the ambulance crew get the patient down a flight of stairs to the ambulance. It was a “good call.”

Once the ambulance took off with the patient for the hospital, the deputy and I returned to the crash scene, where I took the photos on this page.

The Colorado State Patrol, which investigates crashes in the state (even on County roads), often won’t respond to deer-hit calls — there are a lot of them in this state. But an emergency vehicle in a crash while responding? Yeah, they definitely want to come out for those, especially when there’s significant damage. (My top-of-the-head damage estimate to my SUV: $3,000 worth.)

When the trooper arrived, he asked me what happened. “I was going well over the speed limit and then left the scene of the accident,” I quipped. “Sounds reasonable,” he replied.

The “good” news for me was: the trooper said I did “everything right.” He was satisfied with my speed, and with my decision to continue on to the medical call.

It’s good to have that sort of backup. Often, troopers will cite the driver who hits a deer that jumped in front of them out of nowhere, and that always angers me when I hear about it. What, exactly, could the driver have done differently to avoid hitting the deer?! But I didn’t have to protest Friday: he did not even mention the idea of giving me a citation.

Anticipated Criticism

I know some will be upset that a deer died. Why go “so fast”? What if I, or someone else, got hurt?

Go back to the first paragraph: there’s definitely risk involved with every response. I’ve driven on literally thousands of emergency responses of up to an hour long. Responders take those risks knowingly (and they’re stupid if they aren’t aware of the risks!) because it’s our job to get there in time to save lives. Being legally exempt from speed limits has, again and again, enabled us all to save many, many lives, and reduce a lot of suffering.

And if that doesn’t hit home with you, maybe this will: if your child is choking to death, exactly how slow do you want me to go? I have the training — and the “supernatural calmness” — to do something about that. So does the ambulance crew, and so do the firefighters, and so do most cops. We often go to such calls en masse because we can’t say who might get there first to thwart the grim reaper. And if one of us has a problem en route, well, there’s someone else already rolling who can get there. (Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we can continue, and still get there first, even if there is a problem.)

With my thousands of responses, this was my first crash. The odds caught up with me. While many would be greatly upset being in this situation, I’m actually fine with it: I’d much rather my SUV got banged up than my body! As a volunteer, the damage comes out of my (and my insurance company’s) pocket. I’ll continue to do it anyway, even though the risks are ever more real to me now.

On Friday, my patient was short of breath, and I was able to give oxygen within 30 seconds of walking into their bedroom. If you or your spouse were gasping for breath, terrified and turning blue — now how slow do you want me to go? It took the ambulance more than 20 minutes to get there; even with my crash, I got there in about 10. Think about how long three minutes is when you can’t breathe.

That’s why we go fast, moderated by the calculated risk to our own safety. And that’s why you need to get out of the way when you see flashing lights behind you, or hear a siren. The life we’re rushing to save may be someone you know or love. Be alert: help us reduce the risks.

(Just as I was finishing up this page, I heard a dispatch in the next town: “a 2-year-old toddler, unresponsive.” Yeah, some fast driving will take place on that call. I hope other drivers — and the deer — get the hell out of their way! Those parents want help there right now.)

I took my SUV to the body shop on Friday. The professional’s top-of-the-head damage estimate: $3,000 worth.

(Update: the body shop found more damage as they took things apart. Final bill: more than $8,000.)

Oh and yes: our patient survived.

This is sort-of what it looked like. (He’s not a jerk for riding on the wrong side: it was a closed road for a rally in West Virginia. This is a doe, not a buck, and he’s apparently not going all that fast….)

119 Comments on “The Risks of Emergency Responses

  1. Glad you’re OK, Randy — and I know that family is, too.

    Out of morbid curiosity, what does Colorado law say about the consumption of roadkill?

    Hah! And even on the first comment. 🙂 When I was talking to the deputy at the patient’s house, he offered to give me a “road kill tag” — similar to a “deer tag” issued to a hunter, which processors need to legally dress out a deer and provide the meat to you. I said no thanks: I didn’t want to eat a deer that was killed that violently; the meat was certainly ruined. The impact broke its back, among other things. I spared you all the gross photos…. -rc

  2. Nice to see the police backing your decision making tree. And glad that no one was hurt in route.

    Exactly (on the decisions). It’s easy to second-guess decisions made in an emergency situation, especially when under stress. The trooper struck me as a “supernaturally calm” type too. -rc

  3. Seriously? Someone’s going to complain about the deer when you were on an emergency call??? I can’t even think of an adjective that would describe that kind of….perspective.

    Complain? Maybe not. Lament? Sure — that’s natural, at least to some extent. But yes, I do hear criticism of how “unsafe” it is for emergency vehicles to speed. Darn right it is — we know that more than anyone, since the risk to ourselves is the greatest of anyone’s. We do it anyway because the other side of the risk coin is benefit. We have to decide how much risk to take depending on the call. I go much faster for a non-breathing kid than (say) a 90-year-old who fell, even though the latter can be serious. We calculate and take on such risk because speed saves many times the lives that are risked. -rc

  4. I have responded to many medical emergencies. I never encountered a deer, but kids and dogs running into the road are a constant hazard. I was a crew chief and Squad Training officer, so I understand what you mean about experience. Keep up the good work. For all those who complain, there is always someone who give thanks to God that people like you are there for them.

    Kids running out to see “what the siren is” is a hazard I was well aware of when I worked urban areas. I remember rolling on a little girl hit by a car when bike riding, and how furious her father was with me when I got there, because I “took so long”. Even though it was a kid (rule: go faster), I took it easy because it was in an urban area, and my point was to get there intact, and not run over some other little girl on her bicycle. It’s always a careful balancing of risk. -rc

  5. I don’t see how anyone would see any problem with how you drove and how you handled the accident.

    I also wondered if you would get to have the deer in your freezer. Then what happened to it?

    What’s happening to it now is what would happen if its death was natural: predators are feeding on it. We have mountain lions, coyotes, vultures, and more here. -rc

  6. Add another to the list of “glad you’re ok”.

    Hubby works in fire/ems in the metro area and, unfortunately, around here, a car is as likely to jump out in front of you unexpectedly as a deer is there (we have our fair share of deer too, though). Something about sirens can make people turn dumb. Deer too, apparently. 🙂

  7. I’ve been a reader for years, forget how many. Just so glad you’re OK.

    You absolutely did the right thing. SUVs can be replaced, Randys are in short supply.

    There is a problem with deer and busy roads, but it’s not your job to get yourself killed to try to even the score!!

  8. I don’t know if this is really true or not (if not, it can’t be posted in “This Is True” lol), but I heard emergency vehicles were only allowed to go 15 MPH over posted speeds. Is it a state-by-state rule/law/suggestion or have you heard of this?

    BTW, I know I’d gladly pay your deductible if you were responding to my emergency. Glad you had a cool head and were able to return to home base safely. “Hey! Let’s be careful out there.”

    The law varies from state to state. My recollection from when I worked in California was, emergency vehicles were specifically exempt from the vast majority of moving violation laws, except for drunk driving, and reckless driving. There was one addition there: you had to go 15 mph or less through red lights. Most of the time for me, it was (and is) much less. -rc

  9. 1. Glad you are ok. We ALL are.

    2. Sorry about the truck. Would there not be some sort of tax write off as you are a writer in the business of writing? (And you wrote about it, and educated me.) Is there no local fund to help out the volunteers in these cases?

    3. Yah, I think you “did the right thing”, too… for whatever that is worth. Braking, not swerving (I just learned something), AND going on to save a life! Three cheers for you!

    4. I am sorry about the deer, but technically he ran into you. These animals were poorly designed by mother nature, and sadly evolution takes more than 100 years to catch up.

    5. I hope maybe the deer went to a food bank, or to some place where a human or animal could eat it. It not, well, nature will have that deer consumed in about a month out in the wild. Some coyote will be thanking Randy.

    6. And thanks for all you do, man. Take care.

    2. I’m not sure the IRS would allow that sort of deduction — I’m not going to try!

    5. See my reply to the first comment. -rc

  10. In our area, “first responder” (as they call volunteers of this type in this area) or not, you can hit or get hit by deer. Have had them hit me TWICE — IN THE SIDE of the car (once in a van we JUST BOUGHT with my husband driving right behind me). This is not something you can plan or do anything about. A human life and warning that you are needed IS something you can do something about. There is nothing you can do to help the deer, though if not in an emergency you can slit it’s throat and eat it later. But there is something you can do to save a human — and the fact you could still move the car and get to the person who needs the help (and those around them who need to know they are getting the help). I LOVE animals — but humans are still our priority… thanks for taking the ding while saving the people and their lives and emotions.

  11. Just think how much longer it would have taken to arrive (and how upset the parent would have been) if you had been in another accident while responding. A little calm common sense rules the day.

    Alan means when I was responding to the car-vs-bicycle accident mentioned in the comments above. Of course, I wondered: did the father make it a careful habit to get out of the way of emergency vehicles? -rc

  12. Read this to my daughters who are almost driving age. Hope they picked up something from it.

    Even if they don’t seem to care, real-life stories like this have a way of sinking in. Good job, dad. It may even save their lives someday. -rc

  13. I’ve heard you should never go faster than your guardian angel can fly. Seems like you followed that rule. Glad you are okay.

  14. I am glad you are OK. You have written an excellent article about taking risks as an emergency responder. I totally identify with your story. My husband and I were EMTs for 26 and 22 years respectively. My husband was also a fire fighter for a number of years. THANK YOU for all you do! May God Bless You Richly! By the way, my only brother, Randy, is the one that referred your article to me on facebook.

    I guess we Randys try to look out for each other! -rc

  15. Let me add another “rule” about rural first responders:

    There’s never just 1.

    In this county, they roll all 6 fire departments for every call. That means they are coming from all over the county and all different directions. Our EMTs are on the ambulance and the paramedic is on the SUV. Sometimes they are right behind each other, sometimes, not.

    Once you see one, keep an extra eye out for the rest.

    Absolutely: that’s the rule here, too. But it does sound like rolling 6 fire departments to every call is a bit of an overkill…. -rc

  16. CB: I heard emergency vehicles were only allowed to go 15 MPH over posted speeds.

    RC: …you had to go 15 mph or less through red lights.

    TM: Zero + 15 = 15. Yeah, that adds up.

    But I usually go 7, therefore 15 + 15 + 7 = 37.

    The real point, of course, is that things are different in every state. (And sorry for the inside joke, but TM will get it.) -rc

  17. Glad you are okay Randy. And yes, I think you did the right things. I am glad the state patrolman thought so too.

    I live in a rural area of Montana, we haven’t had many medical emergencies recently, but this time of year there’s always a risk of fire (the whole area is basically one large dry grass field, I’m including the wheat fields in that since they are a very specialized type of grass and once a wheat field gets dry it will burn just as fast as any dry prairie grass) and there have been multiple fires in the area the last couple weeks. Almost all the farmers out here have some type of fire-fighting truck of their own, but we’re always grateful to see the local volunteer fire departments roll up as well.

    So thank you for all your years volunteering, and once again glad that you are okay.

  18. A street like that would be designated for speeds up to 62 mph (100 km/h) in Germany. So an emergency vehicle would probably be going more like 80-88 mph (130-140 km/h) on such a road.

    So I guess you were going quite slow. 😉

    On the other hand, if a deer jumped in front of an emergency vehicle going 88 mph, the vehicle probably wouldn’t be able to continue afterwards….

    Quite true. You’re right that my saying it’s “designed for” 45 mph is an imperfect statement: that was the designated speed limit when it opened, but yes, it “has to be” engineered for faster speeds than the intended speed limit. -rc

  19. Glad you and the emergency are both OK, and glad your SUV is stronger than you thought.

    Living urban almost all my life I learned a ton about driving responses from your story — mahalo. I’ll have to read this to my grandson who is almost old enough to drive — and to my son who has been in charge of many convoys.

  20. NICE job of staying focused on the mission at hand.

    As a Trucker, it was drilled in to me from the earliest days to ‘hold it steady’ when suddenly faced with Deer in the road. Which runs counter to the natural reflex to try to avoid them…but with time, one can condition themselves to an ‘automatic’ response when the moment comes — and doing so has served me well in my travels.

    I’ve found that, by holding it steady, I totally MISS them better than 99% of the time. Of the two Deer I have hit — across 22 years and 2.5 million miles of exposure — one was swept underneath the truck and did no damage at all. Just needed a thorough washing of the undercarriage, as the Deer was decidedly ‘totaled’. The other one was a bit more exciting — a right front hit at 65mph, folding the bumper back, which peeled the right steer tire apart, much like an apple peeler would — about $5000 in damages.

    In both cases, I was able to bring the Semi to a well controlled, straight line STOP — with no injury or additional damages — which is the whole point and goal of the ‘hold it steady’ philosophy.

    Once a driver jerks the wheel the FIRST time, in an effort at avoidance, it sets up Vehicle Instability — then all bets are off, and it rarely ends pretty.

  21. I enjoy your volunteer Emergency Responder stories, they bring a sense of understanding to what goes on. And thanks for being one of the unsung heroes, it’s nice to know that you and thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of others like you — paid and unpaid — are there 24/7/365 if and when we need emergency assistance.

  22. I am glad you and the patient are ok. Please go as fast as you need to on an emergency call. I get so angry and frustrated when drivers won’t get out of the way or petition city hall to stop emergency vehicles from using sirens in their neighborhoods.

    This may make me a bad person but whenever I see someone not get out of the way of an emergency vehicle I say a little prayer that it is someone they love who needs help. That way I figure a stranger won’t be made to pay for their selfishness. I cannot for the life of me think of anything so important I wouldn’t get out of the way for an emergency vehicle.

    I definitely don’t think that makes you a bad person, Beth. In fact, I like the idea…. -rc

  23. I am so glad that you’re OK. Thanks for the email yesterday about this. I posted the pictures for the ambulance crew to see. And you can be sure that if any of the emergency equipment has to be “redone” Lightstar Industries will do it at NO CHARGE!!

    James, a fellow EMT a couple of counties north, owns a little company that does installation of emergency equipment into vehicles — including mine. Thanks, James! -rc

  24. I’m so glad that everything turned out well. Like you, I’d rather have the vehicle being damaged than my body. Had an almost similar incident 10 years ago when a squirrel darted in front as I was driving at around 50 mph. I just got my driving license the year before and I remembered my driving instructor’s advice: just drive straight on and never swerve if you’re driving fast. Hit the poor thing pretty hard. No damage to the car, fortunately.

    Yes, I would prefer the paramedics to come as soon as possible if there’s an emergency and would always give way when I encounter them on the road. Life’s too precious to be wasted. Any extra minutes saved may mean the difference between life and death.

    Thanks for sharing.

  25. Lucky this wasn’t in Alaska — could’ve been a moose!

    We have moose (mooses? meese?) in Colorado, too. But they’re quite rare. I’ll stick with deer. -rc

  26. Glad you weren’t hurt when the deer ignored state law about getting out of the way of emergency vehicles. I’m not an EMT, but I had a similar experience five years ago on my post-retirement road trip. Thirty miles east of Cody, WY, at 8:00 at night on US 14/16, we were doing about 60 MPH when a deer came off the right shoulder directly in front of me. I remember the advice I had heard from, I think, my son-in-law, and just kept the wheel straight. I was so close when the deer jumped out in front of me that I hit it before I could get to the brakes.

    I wasn’t quite as lucky as you though. Over $7,000 damage, and because the deer’s hoof put a hole in the radiator, I couldn’t even drive to the next town. Sat out there in the middle of nowhere for over an hour before someone with a “local” cell phone stopped and called the state police; my cell phone kept fading in and out in the poor signal area. He waited with me until the SP got there and called a tow truck, to take the car and us back to Cody. At least a dozen other cars, pickups, and semis just blew right past us, and apparently one of them picked up the carcass of the deer, because although there was a lot of blood on the road, there was no remains. Stocked their freezer with roadkill before the SP could tag it.

    I’ve heard of that before — grab the carcass, and don’t even bother to check the people who hit it. Tip: in an emergency, do try calling 911 even if your phone shows no service, since it might go through. If another tower (not one from your carrier) picks up the signal of a 911 call, they’re required to put the call through. Even if you’re not their customer, and even if your phone isn’t even activated on a carrier. -rc

  27. I’ve lived in a rural area of Scotland for the last 25 years (well, apart from the bits of that time I grew up in Sweden, which has elk instead), and here as with you, roadkill is a fact of life.

    I’ve been fortunate enough never to be faced with anything large, but on one occasion found myself heading straight for a pheasant. If there’d been any traffic on the road (what we call an A-road, national speed limit of 60 mph regardless of bendiness, which in this case was considerable) I’d have had to make the calculation to let the car hit it.

    As it happened, I had the space to afford myself the luxury of braking — holding it, as you say, straight and steady. Good brakes on a 25-year-old ex-military Land Rover, curiously, and the pheasant crossed the road safely.

    Some years before that, though, I was taking my driving licence in Sweden. There, everyone has to do skid pan training to qualify for a licence, and part of it involved viewing the facility’s museum. One of the exhibits was a car; roof peeled back, fragments of grey-brown hair caught in the trim, and so on. (Having been more than tempted to join the police as a traffic officer, I have some degree of interest in RTC analysis; I was quite pleased with myself that my analysis of it was a near-perfect match to the actual event.)

    The car had been travelling along a country road at the legal limit of 90 km/h. An elk had walked out in front, and the driver had swerved rather than braked. Unfortunately he swerved the same way the elk went, the elk rolled over the top of the car, peeling the roof off like a sardine tin, and the car rolled several times and skidded on its roof into a ditch.

    The elk was conclusively dead, of course, and the driver spent several weeks in hospital.

    Your post perfectly demonstrates the value of a cool head and near-instant risk assessment, not to mention explaining in a way that even what my wife would call “the thick end of the wedge” should understand why emergency vehicles don’t use their sirens lightly… and why people shouldn’t feel that they know better.

    I disagree with Beth’s remarks, though. After all, it’s the selfish driver who’s being inconsiderate; that’s no reason to wish harm on people who simply happen to be related to them.

  28. First, So glad you are ok!

    This brings to mind two similar events, one with a good ending and one not.

    The first one it brought to mind was an accident that happened not far from my parents’ house when I was in college. A call came in for a fire with children in the home that they couldn’t get to. A state police trooper and local volunteer firefighter set off at almost the same time. The trooper had just returned early from vacation the day before and not many knew he was back in town. The firefighter, who lived just around the block went faster than he would have normally through a blind four way because he “knew” the trooper was out of town.

    Yep, you guessed it, the trooper t-boned him at about 45 mph. The Trooper was hospitalized for nearly three months and broke his back, spending another year in rehab before he was able to walk again. He was never able to return to duty and retired with a disability pension. The firefighter was killed on impact.

    The reason the intersection had always been a blind one was the one road had originally been a one way alley and only a few years before expanded to a full street width. And being a small town, no one ever had the nerve to ask that the tree planted at the corner of one yard be cut down, especially since it was planted by the elderly man who lived there on the day he brought his first son home from the hospital. His son died just before I was born while serving in Vietnam. But, the day after the accident, the old man nearly had to be rescued cause he was out there with a chain saw taking the tree down.

    The children in the fire? Well they had managed to exit the home another way and were found by firefighters huddling in a field by their house on the opposite side from their parents. The home burned to the ground. Partially because half of the department was called back to deal with the accident and another fire department from a neighboring town went to the fire, arriving much too late to do anything more than keep it from spreading to the fields or barn.

    The other thought I had was of a friend from high school on our graduation night. As you can imagine the usual mucking about, driving country roads and general mischief we were up to. My friend left the party we were at to go change clothes into something more suitable for a muggy hot May. He was in a hurry, cause his girlfriend told him if he wasn’t back in 30 minutes she was going to another party with her friends. So he set off in his custom truck he had spent the summer before rebuilding with his uncle, a local volunteer EMT/firefighter, at full throttle. On the gravel road he lost control in a turn and went dead into a culvert and was thrown.

    The next thing we at the party know we see firefighters and everyone going by lights flashing. First one on the scene was his Uncle. Both he and the vehicle they had spent the summer rebuilding were unrecognizable to the Uncle. He was able to staunch the bleeding and stabilize my friend, all without knowing who he was. When the ambulance arrived and they took over he went about trying to find a wallet or something so he could make notification. Only when he spotted the customized plate and turned it over did he realize who he had just saved.

    My friend? He spent the next year and a half in and out of hospitals and rehab, but eventually returned to mostly normal. Ended up marrying the girlfriend and had three wonderful children. Last year, he became a grandpa. And as luck would have it, his Uncle was lucky enough to be on the spot to do the delivery, cause that child wasn’t waiting on no ambulance.

    I cannot say enough to those EMTs/firefighters and other first responders out there. Thank you! Thank you for taking care of us, even when we are being stupid.

    My previous EMS story was from a graduation night too, from last year. -rc

  29. You’re lucky it wasn’t worse. I’ve also seen deer get up and leave the scene while drivers didn’t. Sorry for the deer, but glad you’re okay.

  30. We don’t have volunteer medics here in Australia, only volunteer rescue teams, but the threat of wild animals straying or running in your vehicles path is always present. Our threats are from Kangaroo or Wombats which, if hit, will easily write off a vehicle. Your advice tho is still sound. I have the same attitude, even when driving normally without racing to an accident. I’ve had two serious Kangaroo strikes while driving in the country, but the option to avoid them would have been far more dangerous.

    Thanks for relaying your experience. I’m glad it all ended well.

  31. I’m glad you and your patient are okay and that your vehicle didn’t end up in worse condition but I am curious, why do you not have a bull-bar to help protect you and your vehicle from such incidents especially since you live in a rural area?

    The bar you see in the photos is the most I could get at the time. There was unfortunately no deer guard for my model vehicle. Now that there is, I’ll probably upgrade. -rc

  32. I like seeing these stories from you, Randy. I was once in emergency services as well — on the other side of it, though. I was the one that made the pagers go off. I worked in a somewhat small town, we had our own dispatch center with one dispatcher on per shift. I started working the 11p-7a shift. Part of our training involved some of the same first-responder training that the fire and EMS personnel received.

    Because of that, I am pretty much always willing to cut a responder some slack — be it police, fire, or EMS. I trust that they are appropriately trained and know what they are doing when they go through a red light, use turn lanes as a means to go straight through an intersection, ‘speed’ down the road, etc. They are responding to someone in need. That outweighs my inconvenience at having to pull over and wait for them to go by.

    Last I knew, here in PA the police are the only ones that can go through a red light without stopping when responding with lights and sirens. Fire and EMS vehicles must stop. They do not have to wait for the light to change, but they are supposed to stop. Main locations have automated signals that sense a special light signal from the responding apparatus and turn the light green for that direction only. Most of these sensors in our area have a white spotlight mounted next to the sensor. If the light is on steady, then the traffic light will turn red. If the light is flashing, an emergency vehicle is approaching the intersection from that direction and the light will turn green. This helps in urban areas where there tends to be more traffic. Once the EV clears the intersection and the sensor no longer sees the signal, the traffic lights return to normal patterns. If you ever see that white spotlight lit and flashing, watch for an emergency vehicle and get out of the way.

    Finally, Randy, thank you. For being a responder and willingly putting yourself in harm’s way for the good of others. Thanks, also, for the reminder about not swerving to avoid animals in the road. This is something I learned (not the hard way, thankfully) a long time ago, and try to remember to do in practice, however a reminder now and again doesn’t hurt. Keep up the good work.

    Dispatchers are the unsung heroes of emergency response. They get calls from panicked people, pull the location and “what’s wrong” out of them, get help rolling, all while juggling sometimes scores of responders who may be calling on any of dozens of radio channels. Big wrecks can bring 20 911 calls all at once. It’s a crazy environment, yet it’s still their responsibility to keep track of where everyone is, and what they need. It takes a special person to handle such chaos — and then come back and do it all again the next day. So thank you for your role! -rc

  33. Glad you and your emergency were both ok. Sad about the deer, but I know from experience that it is more dangerous to try to swerve to avoid them than it is to slow down and hit them.

    Thank you for the service you give to your community-and for sharing the lessons you learn with your This is True® community.

    I think you may be the first to include the “®” on my brand in a comment. 🙂 -rc

  34. As a long time reader, I know you take pride in your EMT duties, as well you should! Although I live in an area where deer are not uncommon, I don’t think I ever learned about the ‘don’t swerve’ when something gets in your way so thanks for that tip. I’ve called 911 three times from my church for various emergencies; the response time has been 27 minutes each time because the church is located in a shared area staffed by volunteers & the ambulance was on the other side of the service are each time. Luckily all 3 patients were breathing but did have medical issues that caused them to be transported, but an ambulance can’t get there soon enough when that call is made. Glad you’re safe. You should submit your vehicle pictures to the manufacturer as an example of how well built the vehicle is! Take care!

    27 minutes is a long wait, but that’s often the reality in rural areas. I hope your church sponsors a CPR class, and considers getting an “automatic external defibrillator” (AED) for its members. -rc

  35. You might want to check about taking the insurance deductible as a charitable deduction. Since you can deduct mileage and other expenses incurred while volunteering, the IRS might allow this.

    Glad you’re okay. Thanks for all you do.

    As my three kids reached driving age, pulling over for emergency vehicles was one of the things I always emphasized, both in theory and by example. In an urban area, always pointed out to pull over and stop even if it was coming the other way. What if it had to turn in front of you into a street or driveway, after all.

    Absolutely. And do watch for a turn signal. It can be hard to see when distracted by all the other flashing lights, but we do signal! And I’ll ask my tax man about the deduction. -rc

  36. Reading stuff like this is always better than hearing vague comments about what should or shouldn’t happen in such and such a case – everything concerned with decision making becomes so much clearer. Thank you very much for relating this, Randy, and I’m very glad that you’re okay.

    I’m glad you and other have found it helpful. That’s even better than just interesting! -rc

  37. Anyone who’d kvetch and moan about you going 55 in a 45 on the way to an emergency need to shut their mouths and consider their own driving habits before opening them again. How many people go five or ten miles over the speed limit just because they feel like it, and not because they have to get somewhere urgently?

    People who don’t move out of the way for emergency vehicles brass me off. Several years ago, I was at an intersection waiting for the light and in the other lane, on the other side of the light, a car was signaling to make a right turn. An emergency vehicle was coming toward the intersection from my right/their left — and they still turned. Another time, I heard an emergency vehicle coming up the road behind me, so I moved over to the right. The car behind me keeps on going. *twitchtwitchtwitch*

    Why do people feel that wherever they need to go is so urgent/important that getting out of the way of an emergency vehicle is too much bother? I always try to remember to say a prayer for the EMTs and paramedics, that they get there ASAP and are able to help whoever it is in trouble, and that the patient will be okay — but if the patient is whinging on about a stubbed toe or has an equally stupid reason for calling 911, may they be stuck waiting in the ER for many, many hours. >;)

    I didn’t think anyone would complain about me going 55; rather, I thought they’d complain about emergency vehicles speeding in general. But yes, I’ve seen all sorts of stupidity, like pulling out of a gas station while looking to the right “to find the siren” — right in front of me, coming from their left. Also, see next comment. -rc

  38. Your speed was within guidelines for Emergency vehicles responding to calls. The maximum speed is 10 MPH over posted speed limit! You have not been driving on I70 have you? Someone hit 19 buffalo out there earlier in the week? 🙂 Just joking on that!

    There’s a big difference between a “guideline” and a legal maximum. There is no specific legal maximum in Colorado; rather, the statute essentially says we can violate speed limits as long as we don’t get reckless. “Reckless” is pretty much defined as “wantonly” disregarding life. Don’t ask me to define “wanton”. 🙂

    And I’ve been waiting for someone to ask what the speed limit was, since I never said. I was curious to see if anyone would pick up on my wording. When the road was paved, it had a 45 mph speed limit; where the pavement ended, it was 30 mph. Everyone complained so much about the 30 limit on the gravel portion that after only something like 20 years of complaints, the county commissioners fairly recently set the speed limit to 35 — even on the paved part. Which, yes, has led to complaints. So I was 20 mph over. -rc

  39. Grateful you are here to emphasize reminder regarding animals. Your readers shared quality comments, especially truck drivers and others with experience relating to emergency responders. Remaining calm seemed to me a key for your survival, especially knowing impact was certain.

    This will be shared one on one with my three grandkids, for sure. The youngest is taking drivers ed right now and I hope he shares it in class. My grand daughter was chosen last year as a freshman, to be on her college’s solar car team, just finishing third in the American solar car race from NY to MN. They are going to design a new car for 2014 for the international race they go to in Australia. They have talked about one of the biggest problems racing there are the kangaroos. This will be a good read for them, too.

    You are right about veering off, often ending over turned in a ditch. In the late 60’s, I was riding in Jamaica with a friend around the island, where short, narrow little bridges were built to cross over streams where the bridge had about a steep three foot rise and decent on either side of the distance for the stream. We approached one where a kid on a bike decided to cross the bridge coming toward us at the same time we were approaching. We were going about 30 mph and to avoid the inevidable, he swerved to the right and we over turned into the ditch on my side. Fortunately for seat belts, we were unharmed. Their first emergency were locals walking on the countryside. There happened to be a boy scout troup in a field nearby, who cared for me with lime water from a tree in the field, while others tended to the car and my friend. We were unhurt and the only damage to the car was the fender rubbing into the tire, which was able to be bent out with help from the locals.

    My biggest scare lately has been as a passenger in a Corvette on the curvy roads just outside Glacier National Park near Two Medicine Creek where it is owned by local tribes. It is open range, and the cattle own the road. You’d never know what was around a bend.

    I’m glad you were able to continue to help those in need. I’ve always admired your willingness to be a first responder! Keep on with all the great things you do in life. It’s so cool you have been so successful moving to the great outdoors!

  40. I am sorry to hear about your SUV but I am glad you didn’t get hurt.

    I live in an area that see a lot of deer getting killed (one state road gets 2 or 3 kills a day) and not to mention a lot of the local town roads that are long and winding with few lights that people seems to forget about the deer.

    I wonder if the deer alert horns would work for you. (I have them on my Jeep and they have worked. They produce a very high pitch sound that deer can hear and the run from the road real quick. I have seen them do that). They sit on your bumper in a certain way and produce the sound when you are traveling more than 25mph. A few bucks may save you more in the long run.

    The only thing I’ve heard about deer whistles are: study after study show they don’t work. -rc

  41. I average about one hundred miles a day in a utility-company bucket-truck. Fortunately I don’t have any reason to speed to any of my calls and with all those miles, the odds have not yet caught up to me in 16+ years. This is an excellent reminder to never swerve for wildlife, your brakes work much better in a straight line, ABS or not.

    Years ago I was among those first responders and am one of those that burned out of it. I take my hat off to you and those whom can keep rolling, working to thwart the reaper.

    Burnout is an especially big problem in EMS. I definitely was starting to feel it in my previous EMS career, but had enough of a lapse before getting into it again that the negatives had fallen away. Considering the awesome responsibilities and job demands, the pay is low, and the stress high. But the pressure — when people see ambulance bills — is to keep costs (read: wages) down. We really need to do more for our EMS professionals. -rc

  42. Noticing that all the comments have been supportive. I think the only people who would criticize are those who have never found themselves in such situations, and only THINK they know how they’d respond. Or “should” respond. Even daily life is full of risks, and in an emergency situation, it’s a calculated risk that balances possible negatives against expected positives (risk/benefit ratio).

    And experience is a wonderful thing, espcially for calmness when, even if you can’t explain how you’ll handle it, you “know” that you will. It’s called Confidence. Them that don’t have it seem to be critical of them that do. Fortunately, it looks like most of your readers have confidence in YOUR confidence.

    I’m sure it won’t shock you to learn that it’s not just in emergency situations that I consider the (the way I put it) cost/benefit ratio. (“Cost” can be money, time, risk, etc.) It’s pretty much an every-day thing here. -rc

  43. Haven’t read your blog before, but this post on FB caught my eye. What you have written about rural roads holds true for interstates and urban driving. Several years ago I was on my way to specialized training for my job, in the right-most lane of a 4-lane loop road around a major city, I noticed a dog running up an off ramp and calculated we would arrive at the same point at the same time. Looking quickly at my options I realized it was me and the dog, with no place to go. My ONLY option was to continue on, trying to slow but unable in the collective speed of morning rush hour. Hitting that dog without swerving was the hardest thing I have ever needed to do. As soon as possible, long after I watched the dog go spinning off the road in my rear view mirror, I called the SP to report the incident just in case they were able to respond and help the dog, although I believed I had killed him. Where he came from and why he was running loose — who knows. So it’s not just children, deer, elk which might come at you while driving. And it’s not just truly rural areas, city streets can catch you if you drive unaware and distracted.

    Absolutely. And you did the right thing. -rc

  44. Regarding stopping for deer to avoid a collision, you may have seen an article about a woman and her two young daughters who were killed on I-70, 50 miles East of St Louis on 7/27. A deer had run out in front of her and she braked to a stop but the semi behind her could not and hit her car. Better to hit a deer than cause a worse accident.

    Didn’t see that, but sad. And yeah, I better not have anyone tailgating me! On the other hand, it wouldn’t be shocking to have a sheriff’s unit following me in. They always prefer medics get there first when it’s a medical call! -rc

    • Regarding unexpected roadway events (stopped traffic, animals, etc), I always put my flashers on as soon as I can do so safely so that whoever is behind me is aware that I am slowing down more than normally. If the semi driver had been aware that she was braking more than normally (and/or that she was stopped on the highway) he could have braked sooner and not hit her, or at least avoided a fatal collision. Until cars have some way of signaling “I’m braking hard now”, or “I’m on a highway and I’m slowing *way* down”, I’ll use my flashers to communicate this.

      Back in the 70s, when “they” were evaluating the benefits of “center high mount stop lamp” (CHMSL, or “eye-level” brake lights) on vehicles, one of the test variants was to have them flash, with the rate of flash increasing as the brake pedal is pushed harder. I saw a few in operation, and I thought it was brilliant. I learned later that sometimes just the CHMSL flashed, just the regular brake lights flashed, or the two flashed alternately or in unison. But when the U.S. and Canada started to require CHMSLs in 1986, in Australia and New Zealand in 1990, and in Europe and other countries after the U.N. adopted it as a requirement in 1998, they were specifically required to not flash, which certainly sounds like a mistake. -rc

      • Re flashing CHMSLs being effectively outlawed: my guess is, auto industry lobbyists fought against them because it would cost the manufacturers 58 cents more to include the circuit to make them flash faster when the pedal was pressed harder.

        I wish I could convincingly reply “No way!”, but sadly, that sounds plausible. -rc

  45. Having met you only once I have a problem thinking that you could be anything other than calm! Good job Randy, need more people like you.

    Thanks, Tommy. -rc

  46. First I’m am very glad you are OK. I know Kit is too.

    I have taken an ambulance ride with an unconscious toddler and looking through that ambulance windshield I was never so upset at other drivers in my life for not getting out of the way. I had always respected emergency vehicles before, but after that I was even more diligent. I have stopped traffic for fire trucks and ambulance and their driver’s wave of appreciation means a lot to me.

    Years later that same toddler, now driving, was rear-ended because she yielded to an emergency vehicle at a green light. Now she is an officer with the state and while not an emergency responder, I always pray that if she is called out for backup, others will stop for her.

    Kit wasn’t with me — she was out of town for the week and got back this morning. And yeah, there’s nothing that gives you an appreciation for the issues as experience! -rc

  47. First, I’m glad to hear you weren’t injured. Second, I’m glad to hear the patient survived, perhaps solely because you were able to get there as quick as you did and get medical help started. Third, I’m glad the trooper saw the reality of the whole situation. Fourth, I imagine that if that trooper was behind you at the time, he would have been at an advantage over other drivers because of his extensive training.

    It’s sad that the deer was killed, all of God’s creatures are precious. Hopefully not too many die needlessly. In morbid contrast, I suppose, it does save its natural predators a tiring chase.
    Keep up the good work Randy. Lives do depend on you and I am glad that you and people like you are around to help those in distress.

    It’s not often that I see my actions actually save a life, and I didn’t see that this time. Reduce suffering, sure — oxygen is a miracle drug for that. And that is plenty gratifying enough. -rc

  48. A co-worked swerved to avoid a deer, and wound up skidding into a fence, or course doing a few $K damage to his car. Because he didn’t hit the deer, and there was no evidence of him hitting the deer (hair or blood) on his car, it was considered careless driving, by both LE and his insurance. My wife stopped to avoid hittng a deer that ran into the road, she stopped in time. The deer didn’t, and ran into the side of the car. One thousand and change to get it fixed. The deer kept running.

    And THANK YOU for you service to your community.

  49. Very glad to know you are OK Randy!

    This makes me think of a time that I had a deer run into the side of my car. When I told my Mom that I had gotten “hit” that morning, ahe said, “Oh, my! Did they have insurance?” I laughed, and told her, “No Mom, deer don’t carry liability!”

  50. My husband and son have both had at least 11 deer-vehicle accidents over the years. My son calls deer ‘hooved rats’ <G>

    South Carolina has an abundance of the animals.

    Glad you weren’t hurt and that your SUV isn’t totaled. Volunteering is something everyone should do at least once. It’s such a great feeling to know you’ve made a difference in someone’s life. Bless you for doing this on a regular basis.

  51. Good job! Pleased to hear you and the patient are well. Shame about the deer, but you made the right call.

    When I was on the force in VA, we also had a 10mph+ “guideline”, but every officer had to make his own decisions, depending upon the seriousness of the call. I’ve had to rein myself in and actually travel less than the posted limit because of traffic and I’ve broken 100mph when conditions allowed and the situation was grave. It isn’t easy to always be calm and make the right decision… it has to be an ingrained habit. Sounds like you have that part well in hand.

    BTW, given that you received no citation or warning, I would suspect that your accountant may give the nod on the charitable donation deduction for your deductible. A good argument can be made that you were acting within your authority and within policy. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

    I’ll add my personal thanks to both you and Kit for your service. I know firsthand, it carries a lot of sacrifices on your parts. Know that it’s appreciated!

  52. That looks like a Ford Escape Hybrid. I remember the post you made about the woman who hit the moose that didn’t remember hitting it. I told you about hitting a deer in my Escape (not a hybrid) in 2001. The deer jumped off a berm when I was traveling at the posted speed (55mph) and it hit the right, front bumper, doing about $3500 worth of damage. If it had been one second later, it would have come down through the moon roof and ended up in my daughter’s lap. I never saw the deer, only heard it, but the damage was pretty severe. It killed both the main radiator, the heat radiator, both lights, the fender, the front bumper, quarter panel, and right front drive train. The car was less than 6 months old. AAARGH!

    I’m glad you’re safe. Deer can be intelligent creatures, but they do seem to be pretty stupid around cars. My ex actually stopped when he saw a small herd of deer at the side of the road and one ran *into* the side of his car!

    I can’t tell you how stupid people seem to be around emergency vehicles. One day, while traveling down the interstate, I went to pull over for an ambulance, when I saw a car pull out in front of the ambulance so that it could get a few cars ahead! REALLY??!! I wanted to reach out and smack someone! You have to wonder what was going through that poor ambulance driver’s mind when he saw that idiot pulling ahead. Surely there are laws against such things.

    The moose story Sabra refers to is here. -rc

  53. Odd coincidence, reading this today, just after watching TWO instances of obliviots around emergency vehicles (and one who took proper action. First off had a fire engine, with flashers and siren going, approaching a red light. I saw and heard it coming (while sitting in a fast food place), several seconds before someone came up on the light, which was green for for him. He hesitated slightly, then went through the intersection, cutting off the fire engine.

    A few minutes later, an ambulance came along, again with siren and flashers going. It was in the left-hand lane, and all lanes were occupied. The driver in that lane did the right thing (fortunately, with a green light) and pulled into the intersection and moved over to the far right, then stopped to let the ambulance past. As it did so, the clown in the right-hand lane moved forward, dodged around the stopped car, then accelerated, caught up with the ambulance, and started to pass it on the right! After that I lost sight of it, but it scares me to be on the road with such people.

    That sort of thing creates extreme danger for the ambulance, the obliviot, and other motorists. They definitely should scare you! -rc

  54. I’m glad you turned out okay. And I appreciate your description of your thoughtful driving process. I’m just glad the only damage was to a deer; cute as they may be, nature designed them to be meat on the hoof, so you just helped this one to its ultimate purpose a little faster. 🙂

    When I was a child, in about 1962, two fire trucks had a head-on collision in the town where I lived — the first had rolled on one call, and then when some idiot pulled a false alarm on the other side of town, the second truck had to cross the path of the first to get to that call, and the two trucks hit each other at full speed. I know at least one or two of the firefighters were killed, as well as both trucks were completely totaled. It was a really awful accident.

    It was, and still is, a good reminder that false alarms aren’t just a nuisance, but can be genuinely deadly; some good people lost their lives over someone else’s “prank.” I know you know to watch out for the other responders, too! But I learned a life-long lesson from that crash.

    My sister and I donated a month’s allowance — 50¢ each — towards the purchase of new firetrucks, and got picked to have an article in the paper about us, and got a ride on one of the new firetrucks they bought. It was a huge thrill for a couple of little girls!

    Stay safe, please. I don’t know what I’d do without a new This Is True in my mailbox each week!

    That action meets one definition of murder: a purposeful and illegal action that causes the death of another. And in many states, people caught doing it can and will be prosecuted for murder. -rc

  55. Glad everything turned out all right! I live in a town that has volunteer firemen, EMTs, and drivers. A number of years ago, there were a lot of young volunteers, and you are spot on about some of them getting *very* excited. Many of them loved the idea of getting to the scene FAST, and had not gained your level of wisdom and were known to reach 80 or 90 mph on 45 mph roads. It took almost a dozen close calls before the chief got wind of the excess speed and clamped down. (I think it took that many close calls because his son was one of the worst offenders.)

  56. As the mother of two fire-medics, you did everything right. Plus, your patient survived, and the granddaughter survived. It doesn’t get any better than that. (Unless, of course, the deer aren’t there in the first place).

  57. As I was reading your blog, the thing that made ME upset was any potential injury to YOU. Yeah, a deer died. Deer die. It’s sad, but not as sad (to me) as a human life being lost. Not even going to pretend there. I guess becoming a mom changes people…. Anyway,you sound like you are truly devoted to your job. Thanks…for everyone who has never said it.

  58. Good Job.

    You are absolutely correct about not swerving for an animal. The only exception I can think of is to move slightly to one side or the other to keep it from hitting *you* in the cab straight on. I’d rather take out the right side of a car (no passenger) than have the thing in my lap.

    And any killed animal needs to be bled out as soon as possible, or the meat is only good for dogs/cats.

    55 in a 45? Quite reasonable for the situation.

    I would change the driving laws in two ways: under 25, you could only drive a car with a max of 75 MPH, and you would need to goto the equivalent of the Bonderant school of driving. *Really* learn how to drive.

    Glad you are OK. The freakiest one I ever heard of was a car hit a deer, and went into the ditch. The folks were OK, and called friends and a tow truck. The friends came and they sat in the friend’s car while the tow truck tried to pull the first car out of the ditch. The tow operator had hooked the bumper, not the axle. The bumper let go, swung up and over, hitting the friend’s car, killing everybody in it.

    So – Keep Calm and Carry On….

  59. I once got into a fistfight in elementary school because my mother had inadvertently run over the guy’s pet cat. But since the alternatives to hitting the cat were to go into a 50 foot deep ravine or head-on the car coming the other way, I was pretty sure she’d done the right thing, especially with me in the car with her, even if it did get me a few lumps the next day.

  60. So glad to hear you are okay, vehicles can be replaced.

    Thank you for your service to your community. And I’ll take a cake in your name to the volunteer firehouse down the road, the one that answers my calls, in the middle of the night.

    They’ll love it. -rc

  61. I grew up in rural British Columbia, so very similar to Colorado. I have had many close calls with deer but luckily they choose to change direction before connecting with me.

    Take care, Randy, the people of your county need you healthy and ready to help them.

  62. It is amazing you weren’t hurt. I’m an animal-lover, but it would never occur to me to suggest you should have done anything other than what you did. Remaining calm and sensible is indeed what saved you.

    I was once a switchboard operator, and upon occasion I had to call the Paramedics. When instructing other operators on calling the Paramedics assistance, I would tell them, “Always remain calm. You cannot help anyone if you are hysterical. After the situation has been handled and the Paramedics have left, *then* you can fall apart.” Co-workers told me my calm demeanor kept them calm and focused.

    I’m happy you’re safe! Sending cyberhugs!

    Yep: hysteria never helps, and often harms. The only rational thing to do is stay calm so you can help. Unfortunately, it’s hard for some people to stay rational in an emergency. -rc

  63. “4. I am sorry about the deer, but technically he ran into you. These animals were poorly designed by mother nature, and sadly evolution takes more than 100 years to catch up.” (Pierre in Ontario)

    Hmm. I’ve never seen that deer are poorly designed. In fact, I think they generally do pretty well. Not sure how they (or other animals) are supposed to have evolved to deal with CARS. Just saying.

    On the other hand, thank you for the tip about not swerving. I had not heard that, except for one of the drivers from my youth group growing up. Since he was a just-past-adolescent young man, he tended to make it sound like he was TRYING to hit the animals (although I don’t think that was really his goal), and put me off from the idea for a long time. I hope I will remember this if I am ever in the situation of choosing to hit an animal vs swerving. (The one time I ever came across this situation I did swerve, but fortunately I wasn’t going very fast and also fortunately the deer swerved the other direction, so we were both fine.)

    Finally, my thoughts on letting emergency vehicles go by: I always imagine to myself that the vehicle is going to help one of my close friends or family members, and act accordingly. Do other people not think about that? I guess maybe it’s not self-evident, but…

  64. Glad to hear you’re OK, and that the patient made it.

    I’ve learned something I sort of half knew already about not swerving. (I used to have to contest my right of way with pheasants on my daily commute, and the only accident on that run that was my fault was because I swerved to avoid a loose dog and spun out onto the yard in front of some farm buildings, sliding backwards into a stone wall at about 15mph. Car a bit bent, wife and I shaken but unhurt. Later commutes to a different location I had deer, cattle, sheep and New Forest ponies claiming right of way.)

    I too have seen all sorts of obliviots getting in the way of emergency vehicles. I try to do the right thing when I hear sirens or see “blues”, because some of my friends are emergency services personnel, including one who is a senior ER doctor who gives up his free time to do blue-light runs, so I would get one hell of a talking-to if I didn’t get out of the way.

  65. One quick note on obliviots and sirens: When I’m down-town amongst the skyscrapers, many times I’ll hear sirens and have no clue where the emergency vehicles are until they’re right on me. The sound seems to come from everywhere; best I can do is keep looking (while not impairing my driving) and hope I see it in time to get out of the way.

  66. I’m glad to hear you are okay and that you were able to help the patient. It is sad that the deer got killed. There was nothing you could have done to avoid it, and you certainly made the right decision to carry on. I am an animal lover, but I am also a realist. You did what was right in this situation. I hope your insurance covers the cost of repair and does not give you a hassle.

  67. I think it is good that you publicise (publicize!) problems associated with responding to emergencies. Most of us have no experience of what that can entail, so some day, someone will remember what you wrote and use it in a similar emergency.

    When I was much less experienced, I was driving on the narrow, winding road along Loch Lomond about 2.00am when an ambulance with two police outriders caught up with me. I speeded up to try to reach one of the infrequent lay-bys to let them pass, but one of the cops shouted “Just stop!” It was such a simple solution, the road was deserted, I stopped and they went round me and roared off into the distance.

    The more we are aware of what can happen, the better prepared we might be.

    The simple rule is, “move to the right and stop.” Just moving over (and not stopping) is NOT enough. Stopping in the middle of the road is not enough. Move to the right and stop. (Although in the UK, it’s probably “move to the LEFT and stop”!) -rc

  68. I don’t know if this has already been said (I haven’t read all the comments yet), so sorry if I’m repeating something. In Ohio, where I live, I see people getting cited all the time for hitting deer, but it is always a citation for ‘failure to control’ or something along those lines. I was told by a police officer that if you do not want to be cited for failure to control in that situation, just apply your brake and accept that you are going to hit the animal and do not turn the wheel. If you hit the animal, continue straight until you come to a full stop and then call the police, and do NOT move your vehicles unless it is unsafe to remain where you are (move it if it puts yourself or others in danger off to the side of the road).

    You are did it right, Randy. Never swerve to miss an animal. Your odds are better hitting it than trying to swerve and miss it. I have read about accidents in our local paper where people swerved to miss a deer and rolled their car. They ended up seriously injured or dead, and the car was destroyed, whereas, if they had just hit the deer, it would have probably been a minor accident.

    The “don’t move the car” doesn’t seem to apply in most states anymore — they want the traffic to keep moving, and it reduces the chance of more accidents. If the car can move, it’s usually best to get out of the way. -rc

  69. Glad you are okay. The Trooper’s actions just confirmed what you already know.

    Unfortunately, animals do stupid things around people (some humans, too, but then we are also animals, after all).

    Agree with you that the deer whistles don’t work (of course, like fishing lures, they don’t have to catch fish, just the fisherman). After my first run-in with a deer (took it straight on, in a Nissan minivan at 60 MPH on I95 early one morning between Woodbridge, VA and Fort A.P. Hill, and it ripped out my oil pan — fortunately was able to coast off the road afterwards). I got in the habit of running with my fog lights on rather than the high beams, so that I could see and be seen further into the brush along the road. Haven’t had any interactions with deer since then (knock wood)!

    Regarding emergency vehicles: during a couple of tours in Korea with the Army, one of the things that used to drive me crazy was seeing Korean public safety vehicles (police, fire and ambulances) trying to move through traffic with their emergency lights on, and NO ONE GETTING OUT OF THEIR WAY! You can be sure our kids were taught better when they learned to drive!

    May G_d bless you and keep you, and your family, safe in your good work.

  70. I must confess to being slightly taken aback by the number of people saying “I always let ambulances past because a friend/neighbour/relative is an EMT” or “because I imagine it could be going to help someone I know”. And sure, knowing a first responder is great for making one *aware* of the problem and how to react.

    But why would it be a “because”? Why would it have to be a “I move because someone I know might be hurt” or “because I’ll get told off otherwise”? Why isn’t it enough to know that *someone* needs help?

    Perhaps it just helps to personalise it, or perhaps it’s related to Mel Brooks’ famous remarks on comedy (“If you fall down a manhole, it’s comedy. If I slip on a banana peel, it’s tragedy.”) in terms of distance. And maybe it’s because I’m an Aspie, but I still find it weird. Someone needs help and I’m in the way — that’s all I need to know.

    As a curio, I might mention that I recently spent a year in South Africa (my wife’s from there) and up until a few months ago their politicians got blue lights and sirens on their cars. Not for motorcades, not because they were expected to respond in emergencies, just because some politicians wanted them and it gave them licence to ignore the speed limits. A few — who shall go unnamed — were particularly notorious for turning on the blues and twos just because they were a bit late.

    After a number of fatal accidents, that privilege was removed back in May or June or so; they get to keep the blue lights, but no sirens, and they have to stick to the speed limits and all the other rules of the road.

    I can see it for a president — mainly for security reasons — but below that level, it’s ridiculous and should be reserved only for reasons of protecting life and limb. The more sirens, the less people pay attention to them. -rc

  71. A thought about always moving to the right and stopping for emergency vehicles —

    In urban areas, where you often have multi-lane one-way streets, it makes more sense to move toward the nearer curb and stop, opening a lane in the center. I’m not sure, but this may be the law in some areas.

    I hate it when drivers do that because it creates a hazard for the emergency vehicle. You’re on the left and the law is to move right? That means I have to watch two lines of traffic, and especially the ones on the left who say “Oh yeah, I’m supposed to move right” — and pull in front of me. I hope no states were foolish enough to put this into law. Move to the right and stop. Simple is better. -rc

  72. Just curious. Did your airbags fire? Seems like you hit the poor buck hard enough to set them off, yet you were able to drive on.

    No, they didn’t. Maybe I got slowed down more than I thought, but the impact didn’t feel like much of a jolt. -rc

  73. Good calls all around. Glad you are safe. Thank God for all first responders around the world. I pray for their safety every time I hear a siren.

  74. First, *soooo* glad you are OK. Since everyone is sharing stories, I’ll share a couple of Alaskan ones. Many years ago, I was headed out to camp in a vehicle I’d driven before, but with a borrowed rooftop carrier. I instinctively swerved to avoid some small animal that darted out in front of me, and almost lost control of the car because I hadn’t realized my center of gravity had shifted.

    Some years later, I was driving a different car on a two-lane highway, with a double-trailer semi coming in the other direction when a mama moose and baby ran out in front of him. We both just hit our brakes. I was afraid he would jack-knife into me; I didn’t realize all the training they go through to stop straight in those instances until I read the above comments. Mama moose went off the side of the road and down the ditch towards me, baby followed her but stayed on the road, so I started honking at it, hoping the noise would make it want to avoid me. I also checked behind me to see if I could back up if necessary, but baby finally took the ditch.

    I will, from now on, do my damnedest to keep straight and brake instead of swerve. Thank you for the lesson.

  75. A friend’s ten-year-old was the one who had to call 911 when his months-old baby sister stopped breathing last week, and both he and the dispatcher appear to have handled the situation brilliantly. (Their mom was there; she was focused on the baby and knew Alex would serve as a good go-between.)

    Turned out the ambulance that responded didn’t have any infant airway equipment, and had to stop en route to the hospital to pick up another EMT with suitable gear. I guess her airway wasn’t so blocked that she couldn’t get any oxygen; soon after reaching the hospital she vomited and resumed breathing, and appears to be completely fine.

    Amusingly in the context of this post, Alex is an experienced deer hunter! I’ve enjoyed some of the venison he and his dad have collected.

    And I was caught by surprise when calling to report a deer had been hit on the interstate coming north from Pennsylvania and being asked by the dispatcher if I wanted the deer. Apparently on a New York highway if I hit it or reported it, the carcass was mine to keep or turn down, and since I turned it down, the responding trooper got the honor.

  76. So many people asked about the deer meat. I butchered and ate a road kill deer once; I will not do that again. Most of the meat was destroyed by the bruising; only one leg was edible. Incidentally a friend hit a deer in the west Texas / New Mexico area many years ago; the deer had jumped up just before the collision and came through the windshield; if he had been on an emergency call, he would not have been able to proceed like you did.

  77. Since I’m one of the people who appears to have been picked up on my ‘because’, perhaps I could clarify what I actually meant to say, but didn’t because I was multi-tasking with job-hunting and so not paying full attention to what I was typing.

    I know to do my best to get out of the way as quickly and safely as possible — which, as has been stated, may or may not mean “pull to the side and stop”. The fact that I have several friends and acquaintances in the “blue-light services” (and my wife works the reception desk in what most of the world call an ER) I have an extra incentive to remember to do what I already know to do.

    Coming onto the comment about multi-lane one-way streets, it certainly seems to be the thing around where I live to pull to whichever kerb is nearer to leave a “lane” through the middle.

  78. I’ll be sending this link to my daughter. I don’t know how many times I have lectured my kids “DO NOT SWERVE TO AVOID…!!!” In fact, I’ve told them to *aim* for the damned animal in the road, because 9 out of 10 times they jump one way or another. (The apply the brakes should go without saying, but you can’t safely brake *and* swerve at the same time.)

    Last year my daughter was on her way home, taking an off ramp from 55mph highway, and deer in headlights. She swerved, deer jumped, her van was totaled. Thankfully the air bags worked, and the shape of the van tossed the deer over the top, rather than ramming it into the windshield.

    We got lucky, nothing more than a few bruises and I lost the use of my truck for 5 months while she saved up money to get a new vehicle.

    As for emergency response, I’ve been there and done that. In ‘tourist country’ mountains of California. Our biggest problem was getting people to get the $#@#$! out of the way! One call we were stuck behind one of those bus-sized motor homes on a dippy road — no safe place to pass for about 4 miles. Lay on the siren … nothing. Hit the air horn … nothing. Lights and strobes going … nothing except being able to see the guy driving in his big ol’ trucker mirror turning his head to talk to someone inside the coach.

    The people at the accident site were lucky. Although they had gone off the road, and were trapped inside the vehicle, there was no fire. So they didn’t burn during the 5-10 minutes it took us to get by the obliviot in the motor home.

    Please remember, people, to check your mirrors — particularly if you like your music or audio-book going while you drive (or if you have someone’s brats in the back seat raising unholy ned). Don’t be responsible for more severe injury — or death — because you were in your own little world driving through the beautiful countryside.

    Countrysides have emergencies too, not just cities. And countrysides had greater distances between problem and help. You could save a life by simply paying attention and clearing the road for an emergency response vehicle.

    And Randy — glad you’re safe, glad you got there in time to help, glad you haven’t given up on being a volunteer.

  79. Honestly, I’m shocked that that was all the damage. I hit a deer at less than 5 MPH a few years ago, and it only did a bit less damage than that. Of course, the fact that I was driving a sedan while you have an SUV might have something to do with it.

    Either way, I’m glad you’re OK, and I know exactly what you mean about “supernatural calmness” — I myself seem to have gained a small measure of this after my first accident.

    Considering the speed, and what happened to the deer, I was quite surprised at the low level of damage to my car. I’m a very satisfied customer! -rc

  80. Just a quick note about another “rule of thumb” that I follow (not sure where I heard this one): Whenever I even glimpse a deer while driving, I slow down as quickly as is safe. And sure enough, even though the deer I spotted never entered the roadway, I’ve had one of his friends leap over the hood of my (hard braking) Miata a split second later. They are herd animals after all. If you see one, there are probably others nearby….

  81. I love your term “supernatural calmness.” That described me for years in the ER, trauma units, and finally in a clinic. I have always been able to keep a level head and remain calm in the most dire of circumstances…until my four year-old foster daughter split her head open. I was close enough to grab her quickly and apply pressure. Then proceeded to panic. Medically she was stable; never even cried. But I kept saying “I can’t sew, I’m shaking too bad! What do normal people do?”

    Finally I called my partner in the clinic who met me on a Sunday morning to stitch her little head. She was flabbergasted that I was so upset, reminding me that I was the one who handled all the emergencies because “nothing phased me.” My girl was actually laughing by then because no one in the family had ever seen me “lose it.”

    Since then, I’ve remained calm in every circumstance, but could not hold back my snickering last night. The drain hose came lose from the washing machine in the Forest Service barracks (I’m living and working in the mountains for the summer). As water poured out onto the floor my co-worker started screaming as if someone was dying and it was blood on the floor. I just calmly said “push the knob in and turn off the washer.” Then I snickered as she started crying from the “disaster.” I suppose many people don’t react with “supernatural calmness” like others do…but I can’t promise not to snicker when the reaction is out of proportion, much like was that one day.

  82. Shane of QLD Aus., wrote about our hazards of ‘roos and wombats. I totalled a ‘roo a few years ago, in early dark and lights on low beam because of other traffic. It came from the side of the road out of bush and I didn’t even see it.

    Recently, almost the same scenario happened with a wombat. There were a couple of cars around 200 metres ahead so my lights were on low, when I saw a wombat at the last moment only about 20 metres ahead. Dark brown fur and low lights are not a good combination for visibility at 10pm. It must have walked onto the road right behind the preceeding cars.

    For those who don’t know wombats, they’re not very tall but they do carry quite a bit of weight! This one wiped out the front skirt of my car and I arrived home with the number plate dangling from one screw.

    In both cases I was travelling at about 100 KPH on relatively staight sections of road. Just after the wombat incident, I met another one on our local coast road, winding with many tight curves and an 80 KPH speed limit. This time there was no other vehicle in sight, so my lights were on full beam and I was able to see the wombat far enough ahead to swerve onto the other side of the road and avoid it. With the first one so close and at 100 KPH I made no attempt to turn. I’d have left the road or rolled if I did.

    With regard to people ignoring emergency vehicles, I was told of an incident by a ‘firey’ in Melbourne, when they approached ‘Spaghetti Junction’ a notorious intersection with (if I haven’t lost count) 7 roads leading into it. A driver was stopped at a red light when the fire engine came up behind him. He sat there, totally ignoring the siren, lights and air-horn behind him. Finally, the fire engine driver moved forward slowly, pushing the car ahead of him into the intersection until he was able to drive around the car and continue on his way!

    There are obliviots all around the world, Randy.

    So glad you aren’t one of them and are still with us. It would be awful having to train up someone to replace you!

    There are definitely obliviots all over the world, as a careful reading of TRUE should make clear. Obliviocy is a human, not American, condition. Though it does often seem we have more than our fair share. -rc

  83. I’m confused why and what a driver would be cited for if a deer jumps out in the road and gets struck by a moving vehicle.

    I wrote hundreds …yes HUNDREDS of car vs. deer accidents in Michigan and can say with 100% accuracy, I never cited anyone for hitting a deer. I can say with a good deal of certainty that no Police officer I worked with or have ever known would cite a driver for hitting a deer.

    Somebody’s got to sit your Troopers down and have a little discussion with them about what’s right!!!!

    As a former urban Paramedic, county paramedic, small city police officer, rural police officer — I’ve been through all of those stages that you just went through — heck with the exception of not working for NASA (I’m a financial advisor in my later days) we’ve led very similar lives!!!!

    Indeed we have! And if you slide off the road on ice, it’s not the state or county’s fault for not maintaining the road properly, but rather your fault for “improper mountain driving” and you’re cited accordingly. I’m not sure the exact charge for hitting deer, but I’ve heard of many instances of it. -rc

  84. First, I’ll continue with the “you did right” theme.

    I will comment on the don’t swerve idea. For a standard sedan or SUV and a deer (or smaller), that’s good advice. For any car with a low nose, that’s a bit iffier as the deer will come over the hood and through the windshield if you do hit it. However, if it’s a moose or cow swerving might be a good idea. I’ve seen a couple of cars that have hit large animals and the drivers and passengers might have been better off with a trip through the boonies. And of course, if it is a person I’ll take my chances in the ditch. There was a comment that came from WWII and pilots in England that is appropriate (and I’ll paraphrase a bit) “if the wreck is unavoidable, look for the softest and easiest to replace object to hit”. A deer or other small animal is better than a fence, tree ditch etc.

    Cycles are a bit different as well. A friend of mine was riding out west many years ago and hit a dog. She spent weeks in the hospital, the bike was a write off.

    Regarding moving over. One of the hazards in my neck of the woods is traffic backups on multi lane roads and first responders trying to get past to the accident scene. We have some idiots who decide to pull to the right and block the breakdown lane which the various flashing lights are trying to use to get to the wreck. Don’t do that! If traffic stops, keep the shoulders clear! If it’s total gridlock, look for what lanes the lights are trying to straddle and try to clear that path. It may mean left, right or even off the road. Just don’t get stuck and make it worse.

    Finally, the “supernatural calm” that has been mentioned is a “reflex” that some people have. Time seems to slow down and you seem to have minutes to deal with something that when you look back on it was only a very few seconds. Not everyone has it, and those who do, don’t always have it kick in so if you’ve every experienced it, don’t count on it for the next time. I’ve had it happen a couple of times and it’s saved my butt! I also had a fall where it did not kick in and I broke bones that if I had just grabbed on when the fall started I would have walked away from it.

    Indeed there are exceptions to the rule, but the way I said it was I made the decision to “not swerve to avoid animals.” We do have elk and moose here, but it’s quite rare for them to be hit by cars. Pretty much, it’s deer and smaller. And yeah, I’d take my chances with a rollover rather than hit a child. -rc

  85. An employee hit a deer on I-70 East of Denver on his way into work some months ago. It totalled his car but he was okay, just “rattled” a bit. The highway patrolman, to relieve the tension, asked him for his drivers license and his hunting license. Just enough humor to ease his nerves!

    But it really irritates me to pull over for an EM vehicle, then have the car(s) behind me use that as a means to get around me. At age 65 I’m more conservative than a few decades ago, but I’m not a “pokey” driver — at least not yet — and I like to “get there” as much as the next guy, but why can’t other drivers take a few moments to give EM vehicles a break?

    “There oughta be a law…” oh yeah, there is!!

    I like that trooper’s sense of humor. And yeah, what you describe is a result of obliviots thinking they’re more important than everyone else. More important than you, and more important than the person in need of help. Doesn’t matter if it’s an unconscious child in the back of that rig, they are more important! What sad examples of humanity they are. -rc

  86. As an animal lover, BUT with an uncommon sense of common sense, l understand this was obviously NOT done on purpose, so with that in mind l say good on you for for getting the job done (that you are trained for). Having seen other emergency vehicles in a similar position l can but shake my head at the idiots who don’t get out of the way of emergency vehicles. I always envision someone l love needing you guys and the situations idiots out there put them in or just being rubber neckers. I would only ask other drivers to please make sure an animal is dead before driving off. Other than that…good on you for a job well done.

    There was no doubt in my mind that it was dead. -rc

  87. Thanks for all your service. A point for drivers in rural areas to be aware of: when one deer runs across in front of you, watch for the rest. They like to play follow the leader crossing roads. Many have been hit because the driver was looking at the one they just missed.

  88. Your advice is spot on in regards to not trying to make sudden moves to avoid hitting an animal, or other, running out in front of you. I hit a deer in an Audi one morning. The impact was so hard, it broke the timing belt wheel off its shaft and rendered my car undrivable. The VA state trooper that responded told me I was lucky it happened so fast I couldn’t respond as a lot of folks make an evasive maneuver and lose control, wreck their vehicles and are sometimes killed themselves, as you indicated. Folks reading your story will be well advised to avoid high speed maneuvering to avoid hitting an animal. However, if one’s speed is appropriate, and you have time before impact, it is suggested to slow down while keeping the wheel steady with two hands on the wheel. Maybe you can miss it as it moves off the road. God Speed in your responses to emergencies, Randy. Thanks for what you do for your community.

  89. I remember once reading that if the Titanic 100 years ago had hit the iceberg head-on, it would not have sunk, so it is not just road traffic to which the advice here could apply! But it is reassuring to know that my instinct to brake in a straight line when I see a hazard ahead is correct.

  90. Actually, this is the only way that the deer will ever, ever, learn: “hear a loud noise, get AWAY from the road”.

    It’s not pretty, but that’s how natural selection works. (Two of the three deer made the right choice, I see.)

    I’m reminded of a news item in which a European woman wanted the “Deer Crossing” sign moved away from her yard and down the street — That would be so the deer would cross down the street, as she wanted, and not in her yard, I guess. Someone had to explain that the DEER don’t pay attention to the signs, the deer don’t read or care. Deer need more drastic control measures.

    Anyway, (1) So sorry about your truck, hope it’s fixed now. (2) Thanks, and (3) Thanks.

    The first ‘thanks’ is for serving and saving those lives. (Glad you weren’t hurt.) The second ‘thanks’ is for writing about it. Now we know more about not swerving around deer, if we have to plow into them. (I’ve seen plenty of them not smart enough to figure out cars and highways….)

    No, it’s not fixed yet. I have two more weeks to wait, and unfortunately my insurance doesn’t cover a replacement rental. A fellow medic is out of the country, though, and said “use mine,” so I’m good until she gets back. -rc

  91. Totally OT – I love Neil’s word “obliviots”. I shall use it freely (and often, as I am often surrounded by them!)

    Back when we had to ride dinosaurs to respond (OK, I’m exaggerating, but not much, let’s just say I can remember when only very large urban areas even had 911), I was also a volunteer medic in the small rural town where I lived at that time. Our situation was different in that we had actual shifts at a base station so most of our responding was done in an ambulance. (Although I carried supplies and equipment in my personal vehicle as well, and had ample opportunites to use it over the years.) And you are so right about the risks being different depending on population density, terrain, weather, and all kinds of factors. In a way it’s a different job everywhere you go, but the point of it is always the same — to get to the scene as quickly as possible, and to keep your wits about you to do the most good when you get there.

    My field is transportation and I’ve worked in many areas of it, including truck driving. And yeah, we were taught to “hang on and hit it”; it’s really all you can do. Of course anything you can reasonably do to lessen the impact if you encounter an elk or moose or larger animal is good, but the idea is always to make no sudden movements and not to lose control of the vehicle. (We were also told to never blow the air horn at an elk or moose because they would consider it an invitation to a fight but I have no idea if this is true or not!)

    I’m really glad you’re OK, and I bet your patient on that call was, too. A deer can do a lot of damage even to a big truck, let alone to a four-wheeler. And I would upgrade on that bumper bar too!

    An online friend put me on to your blog, and I look forward to reading more of it. You did exactly the right thing in the situation. And like me, I’m sure you’ve found that that “supernatural calm” serves you well in a lot of areas, not just in emergency responses. 🙂

    “Obliviot” is the official This is True title for most story subjects starting in March 2009. The story of that is on this page of this blog.

    The deer, at least, really do NOT like the “air horn” built in to the electronic siren. It makes them run, and it’s how I clear the road when they’re meandering. I’ve never tried it on elk, in part because I don’t want them to run. I want to stop and watch them! -rc

  92. One can actually be *too* supernaturally calm in these situations. Years ago, my husband and I were driving towards Jasper, Alberta, in the evening, in fall, in a mild snow storm. I was the passenger, and on secondary big-animal-alert.

    After many hours of driving, I spotted the telltale of two red eyes moving toward the highway from the treeline. In a loud, but not panicky voice, I shouted, “DEER”!

    My husband turned (slowly) to me and drawled, “Yes, honey”?

    That’s when I finally lost it, pointed and screamed, “Big! Effing! Moose!”

    Fortunately for us, the deer calmly bounded back into the trees, but ever since then, any and all possible road obstructions are now called moose.

    I’m almost surprised that in response to your second try, he didn’t say “Yes, little honey-bunny?” -rc

  93. So glad you’re ok!

    I’ve been very lucky in my hundreds of thousands miles driven over the years (including deer, elk, antelope, moose areas), only hit a few smaller animals (squirrel, raccoon, etc) — still upsetting, but not dangerous like the big animals. I have friends in ME, NH & VT who have hit moose — more dangerous due to their height and weight — the body usually hits the windshield and/or ends up in your lap.

    I live in an area with a lot of deer — not unusual to see a new body on the side of the road every week.

    Even though I’m on a dirt road, it’s a main road per se, and we get a lot of sirens going by. They are very considerate! If at night, they turn off their sirens once they hit the dirt road, only using their lights (I’m assuming since it’s rural, others can see the lights coming so sirens aren’t necessarily needed — relatively flat/straight land/roads).

    Kudos to all emergency workers — my only plea: I’m on the medivac flight path from one of the hospitals to the “garage” — I don’t care how low you fly with someone inside (they fly faster on the way to the hospital), but on the way back, please fly higher so not as to shake the house, especially in the middle of the night. 😉

    Sounds like a reasonable request! And yeah, I don’t use my siren in the middle of the night either. No sense in waking everyone up. -rc

  94. I told my kids when teaching them to drive — hit the deer. Better choice than swerving and, as you said, rolling the vehicle. What I see around here way too often is a car into a tree because they tried to not hit the deer. So far, I’ve hit one deer and been run into from the side by one deer.

    On another topic, I keep our scanner on all the time and on the rare occasions that the call is near me for someone I know, I go over there so they won’t be alone while waiting for the ambulance crew (which can sometimes take 20 minutes). My husband says I am being nosy. I say I am being a neighbor. As soon as the crew gets there, I get out of the way so they can do their job. Our local vfd often shirks the calls (we are a very small town) so we have to wait for service from up to 15 miles away. I know that the one time I had to call, that wait seemed like an eternity. I just can’t see someone sitting there scared and alone while I sit in my comfortable house.

    I agree: you’re being a good neighbor. I hope you have at least taken a CPR class. At some point, you’ll need it! -rc

  95. Glad all worked out ok for you . I’m close to a fire station in one direction and a sheriff’s station in the other. The sheriffs are in one-man cars, so after one goes by, I always assume that there’s another one coming. I pull over and turn on my flashers so they know I’ve seen them.

  96. Surprised this hasn’t come up: there’s too many deer….

    Sure they’re pretty to watch in the moonlight, but the monetary and loss-of-life costs present poor “risk balancing”. Before the ‘animal hater’ posts arrive, look at the statistics, e.g., Michigan (but applies anywhere).

    2011 saw 53,000+ Michigan crashes, 1464 injuries, 8 fatalities, $130+ million monetary cost (1). Deer population reduction thru lethal (2,3,4), contraceptive (2), or corridor (3) techniques results in a proportional reduction in human losses, although there is disagreement over the proportional constant and the sustainability minima (4).

    So, which would you choose — deer or human loss? From my garage apron I can count the deer walking my tree line (200 ft from the garage, 50 ft from the Interstate). As someone who has been hit BY deer twice (they ran into the side of my pickup, I was going 10-20 mph) and has had a deer jump over me on my motorcycle, I believe it’s time for more intelligent deer population control measures.


    I think deer do more than just look nice, but yeah, they should give out more deer tags to hunters, especially in more-human-populated boundary areas. -rc

  97. Michigan has deer in all 83 counties, including Wayne — where Detroit and the Metro area are.

    I looked up a few sites on google (Jeff’s post got me curious). Deer/vehicle crashes were considered a problem in Michigan as early as the 1930’s. There was a peak of 2 million deer in Michigan in 1989. One of the first things on several pages was not to swerve, brake firmly and hold the wheel.

    There have been years where the DNR allowed special tags for deer hunting in usually non-hunting parks on certain days. Doesn’t help, there are too many to control with such small numbers of tags allowed. Guns cannot be used in my township if within 600′ of another dwelling, but bow hunting is allowed on your own property (a neighbor has done this for many years, our localized deer numbers have dropped in the 14 years I’ve been here).

    Deb in PA: I’d love to have you as a neighbor, would be very comforting (even if that person is not given to panic) to have someone wait with you (gone through waiting alone for my dad’s 911 call responders several times).

  98. This may help. First glad you are well, sorry about the deer and the vehicle.

    I wish I could tell you exactly where to find this but because of animal hits an inventor has produced a vehicle attachment that as the wind blows through it the thing whistles, it gives off a supersonic sound that animals can hear from a good distance and it startles them — but humans cannot hear it at all. I am sure you can find it on the net, I saw it shown once on the news a couple of years back. I too live in the country but at the time did not make a note on it (sorry), my bad. It can be used on motor vehicles, trains, trucks anything that gets up to a decent speed, it may drive the local dogs to bark or howl or even come to you but they designed and recommend it for scaring off deer, moose bear, etc. before your vehicle gets near them. I hope this helps and again apologize that I did not take better notes about it.

    As noted in an earlier comments, studies show “deer whistles” don’t work. -rc

  99. In Australia we don’t get many deer, thankfully. Our problems run to kangaroos and wombats. Wombats are like hitting a hundred pound rock and can take out the underneath guts of your car. Even truckers hate them for the damage they do. And kangaroos, well some of them are just plain crazy as they sometimes want to race you lol! But any animal can be dangerous if you hit it at speed. Anyway best of luck on the road to all…:)

  100. Those whistles are called ‘deer alerts’. I have them on my motorcycle. I ~can~ hear them and I can only attest to my perceived difference to how amazingly it makes wild turkeys go running from the road side. I (coincidentally?) have not seen any deer or moose from my bike since putting them on. I had no idea there were studies showing they don’t work. Not that I’d ‘rely’ on them, no matter what I’m driving, I brake considerably for any wildlife seen on the side of the road.

    Years ago, New Hampshire started a campaign of signs: “brake for Moose”. It may seem as over-simplification but braking as soon as you see any animal standing along the roadside gives you a better chance because so many decide to dart across at the last minute. I wish I had any statistics on car/moose collisions since the start of the campaign.

  101. Some of the stories in these comments are pretty scary!

    You may be interested to hear a story my mother once told me about an incident she saw many years ago on a major motorway somewhere in England (the exact location escapes me) where there was a multi-car accident which blocked the entire road. The traffic obviously started to back up, and my parents were about 500 yards back from the actual accident. For those unfamiliar with British motorways, all of them have 3 lanes going either way with a divider in between and a wide paved shoulder, usually surrounded by steeply-sloping banks. Since the divider doesn’t usually have gaps in it, the emergency services usually drive up the shoulder if all 3 lanes are stationary. That’s what they did in this situation, which gave some bright spark in a tricked-up hatchback the idea to do the same thing after a few minutes, thinking he’d get past the accident that way. Unfortunately for him, as he was about level with my parents’ car, he came face-to-face with a police Land Rover coming back towards him, with an ambulance right behind it. They’d presumeably decided to drive back the way they’d come because it was the quickest way off the motorway. The guy in the hatchback stopped, but couldn’t pull over far enough for the ambulance to get through because there was 2-foot deep drainage ditch just off the road. The Land Rover didn’t take no for an answer, and simply shoved the hatchback slowly into the ditch. The look on the face of the guy driving it was absolutely priceless, according to my mother!

    See, they DO get their just desserts sometimes.

  102. I moved to just south of you two years ago and the mountain that we live on is full of deer. I have gotten very sensitive to watching out for deer on the side of the road, which definitely saved me and my little Chevy Aveo last year when a full grown mountain lion decided to leap in front of me on the way down the mountain. I managed to stop just in time to avoid hitting it. I probably would have just pissed it off if I had, and that’s the last thing I needed on my way to work.

  103. Randy, I’m surprised you were *only* going 55mph.

    Depends. I was probably going faster on a wide-open straightaway, but when it comes to this area, where there are rises, I go slower. These deer just happened to be just over the rise, so I had little time to react. -rc

  104. Just be glad you weren’t attending in the UK. As someone in the emergency services its now become too dangerous for my colleagues to attend emergency calls as they risk prison if they have an crash.

    That’s a pretty pathetic article: cop prosecuted for “dangerous driving” for pursuing a felon, even though there was no crash, and not even a complaint, and even though the constable’s driving was “admirable”, “not careless, reckless or dangerous” and was “typical of an urban pursuit”. Sounds like ZT thinking.

    To be sure, as noted above we’re generally exempt from traffic laws except for drunk driving, and reckless driving (“wanton” disregard for the lives of others). The court in the cop’s case threw it out quickly, but I can see how other officers would feel “chilled” from chasing dangerous felons. Me, I want the cops to go after felons, as long as they’re not reckless about it. -rc

  105. “…That’s why we go fast, moderated by the calculated risk to our own safety. And that’s why you need to get out of the way when you see flashing lights behind you, or hear a siren…”

    No idea the logic on Oklahoma not having a right-of-way law. Yep, we can actually ignore the flashing lights and block rescue vehicles from trying to save others. At least that’s what my firefighter husband has said. I always thought it was REQUIRED for us to get the heck out of the way, and even if it wasn’t required, I wouldn’t want an asshole preventing me or a loved one from emergency care.

    Glad you are well. Maybe setup for us to donate to your deductible?

    Notice I didn’t say it’s smart to pull over because it’s the law, but rather it’s the right thing to do. Sad if Oklahoma doesn’t have such a law, though. And while I appreciate the thought of a donation pool, I won’t be setting that up. You’ve done plenty by having a Premium subscription for several years now. Thanks! -rc

  106. Lots of comments! I think many emergencies could be improved if we ALL had 1st aid training, starting in elementary school and refreshed every year or two. We should know how our bodies work, what can go wrong, and how we can immediately respond while medics are en route.

    Hard, tho, if the sick/injured person is close to you.

    Yes it is, but if you can’t or won’t help those close to you, can you expect others to? Emergency response starts with you. -rc

  107. Just re-visited the page, and noticed a few new comments.

    About the ‘Stop’ on Scottish highland roads — some of those roads are so narrow, you cannot pass one another normally. Therefore, they have those lay-bys — and if you’re used to them, you might not even realize that the road is just wide enough for the emergency vehicle to pass you.

    And where to go to get out of the way: at least on European highways (esp. if they are two-lane ones) it is (supposed to be) the law to move out — the right hand lane to the curb, the left hand lane towards the divider — to let the emergency vehicles through. If you don’t do that once the vehicle approaches, you will get ticketed, and most people do that automatically, even before they hear or see the emergency vechicles coming.

    In cities with multi-lane streets, I tend to keep rolling and checking the rear-view mirror to see where the vehicles are coming, so I can get out of their way and not move underfoot.

  108. About ten years ago, my wife and I were driving over to Seattle. We crested a summit only to see a herd of cow elk galloping down the hillside, crossing the highway about a mile ahead of us. I started telling my wife to stop the car. She argued with me: “Why? They’ll be long gone before we get near them!” I just ordered her, STOP THE CAR NOW! Fortunately she payed attention: the entire herd wheeled around to avoid the oncoming semi. We came to a stop as they crossed back across our lane, not a yard in front of our bumper!

  109. The only problem I have living in a very urban area is that the echos off the buildings can confuse you about exactly where the emergency vehicle is and what direction it’s going. Many a time I am craning my neck to see where it is, only to have it pop into sight — one street over!

  110. My sons are both firefighters in Florida, my brother and sis-in-law are QRU (Quick Response Unit) here in Idaho. I’m sure my brother/sis are more at risk, as they are driving their personal car, not a big, red truck, and Idaho drivers are not well known for their courtesy and/or forbearance when faced with an emergency vehicle — especially an unmarked one! They’ve ALL had dings, but so far, no major owies… Stay safe, Randy!

    In Colorado, responders aren’t allowed to speed/break traffic laws unless their vehicles are fully equipped with approved lights visible from all directions (such as roof-mounted) and sirens. -rc

  111. 10/10 for not swerving to avoid animals — something that I’ve convinced my wife and daughter to do.

    Said daughter was recently driving along a 2-lane, bendy country road behind another car when a police car with blues and twos approached from behind. The car in front of her promptly stopped! The police car therefore had to stop as well and could only get past some time later when he could eventually judge that it was safe for him to get past *both* cars.

    Why do some people stop like that. Continue until it’s safe for you (and any other cars) to pull in and let the responder pass.

    The thing I see a lot of here is they see an emergency vehicle coming, but “wait until it’s close” before pulling over — on a curve, or just before the peak of a hill: the most dangerous places possible to pass. This is an example of people just not thinking. -rc


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