Oh Deer

Posted by on Jan 25, 2013 in Stories

Last night, after spending a full day in Ashburn, Virginia catching up with old friends, I left my friend Corky’s house to head home in my new white Volkswagen GTI. My old friend Matt was in the passenger’s seat.

There was no one else on the Dulles Toll Road (VA-267), but the roads were icy and the particular section we were on didn’t have any lights, so I made sure to drive extra slow, barely 50 mph. Matt was talking to me about his work.

The rest happened in slow motion.

A deer standing in the median bounded into the middle of the road. I hit the brakes, Matt shrieked “Oh fuck!” But there was absolutely nothing I could do. I plowed into it, hitting it squarely with the front of my car. And when I say squarely, I mean it was a DIRECT hit.

With a blunt-sounding thud, the windshield filled with a spray of coolant from the engine, and the contorted body and legs of a deer flew up and out of my field of view. While I focused on controlling and braking the car, Matt tracked the deer as it passed over and to the right of us.

“That deer is dead,” Matt said before it even landed.

It fell in a grassy area on the side of the road and slid for a bit before it was out of view and lost in the dark.

I could see that the hood was crunched upward, the indicators on my dashboard were all firing, and the car was sputtering, but it was still running. I gently came to a stop on the shoulder.

“Damn it, damn it, damn it…” I kept saying.

“Are you OK?” Matt asked.

“Ya, I’m fine.” We both sat there in disbelief.

Matt got out of the car and ran back to see if he could see the deer. I went to the front to inspect the damage. As expected, the front of the car was crunched in, and coolant was pouring out of the bottom. The crunch was compact and right in the middle, crumpling the hood with morbid symmetry but leaving both headlights intact. The car was in bad shape.

Instead of calling the police, waiting around in the cold to file paperwork, and risking a tow, we decided to get back into the car and drive home if it could handle it. The poor GTI sputtered and stalled and sounded like a lawnmower, but it could handle 20 mph, so we made our way home with the hazards blinking. With the engine smashed up, the heat didn’t work anymore, so the ride home was frigid.

Matt and I discussed what had just happened. Matt, an avid hunter and more knowledgeable about deer than I am, says that it was a doe weighing about 200 lbs.

“We hit that thing dead-on. If this was baseball,” Matt said, “that would have been a 520 foot home run.”

He was particularly impressed by the physics of the whole encounter. “I think that deer did a 780 in the air.”

“But it didn’t stick the landing,” I added.

We were also pretty lucky. If we had hit the deer at a slightly different angle, it could easily have come through the windshield and done some serious damage to me and Matt. If we had hit the deer obliquely, it could have sent our car off the road or flipped it.

We got home, parked the car, and went inside. I went to sleep and decided to call the insurance company in the morning.

At 8 AM, I called Progressive. Maureen, the agent I was speaking with, sounded just like the Gateway girl that Arnold calls, but she was a little bit smarter and much more helpful. I happened to ask her how many Progressive customers hit deer every year.

“Out of every 20 calls, I’d say that 8 of them are animal collisions,” she said. “There are a lot of deer out this time of year. But sometimes it’s moose or cows, depending on where people call from.”

Unbelievable. Wikipedia says that there are 247,000 deer-vehicle collisions a year in the US. Damn.

DSC_2557They sent a tow truck over to pick up the GTI. I was a bit concerned that the insurance company might not believe that I hit a deer and might instead think that I hit a mailbox or a parked car or something. Would that impact my claim differently? In any case, my fears were eased when we found deer fur embedded in the license plate. It was indisputable.

I hopped onto Google maps hoping to find the approximate location of the accident. Near the spot where I think it happened, wouldn’t you know it, there is a deer standing in the bushes looking right into the camera.

I’m waiting to hear back from Progressive, but there’s a pretty good chance I’m going car-shopping soon. My new white Volkswagen GTI is probably gone.


  1. We drove by the same spot this evening (the next night) and found a 150 lb. buck on the side of the road. It must have been the one we hit. No blood, no gore, just frozen and covered with snow.

  2. My insurance company just called and said that there’s $6,642 worth of damage, but the car can be saved. It’ll be repaired with VW factory parts and should be ready in two weeks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.