Caught in your headlights

Drive Magazine

By Diana Faria

Ryan Sang cruised at an easy 110 km/h eastbound on the Trans-Canada Highway about 20 minutes out of Yorkton, Sask.

That’s when he saw the blur.

He swerved sharply to his right.

“I just saw something brown. I didn’t know what it was,” said Sang, three years later. “From what people have told me it was a very small deer, because to me it was just a brown blur.”

The SUV veered to the right shoulder and began to roll. It flipped about 10 times before stopping right-side up.

Once the vehicle came to a halt, Sang placed his hands to his face. When he pulled them back, he saw they were completely covered in blood.

“I got really scared. I got super scared,” he said. “My rearview mirror wasn’t in place, it was crooked so I couldn’t see myself. I adjusted the mirror and I looked like character straight out of a horror movie.”

The Ministry of Transportation says collisions like Sang’s happen once every 38 minutes, almost 90 per cent of them in two-lane roads in rural areas.

Peak times for wildlife accidents occur in May and June, and during hunting season from October to December.

The Ministry of Natural Resources warns motorists moose, deer and elk are especially active during dawn and dusk, which wasn’t the case with Sang’s encounter.

Jim Dickson has been an OPP officer for the past 28 years. Stationed at the Bancroft detachment, Dickson said he’s called, on average, about 30 times a year to an accident involving large animals.

“You find one of the most common things in your job [is] a car/deer accident,” Dickson said, adding the animals usually roam near the road during a full moon right before hunting season.

It was hunting season of 2009 when 31-year-old Genny Goulart crashed into a large deer, totaling her car.

Goulart was heading north on Highway 11 to where her husband, Gary, was hunting with a few friends. The two-lane highway was merely lit by the headlights of her 2006 Volkswagen Passat.

About half an hour past Barrie, she saw something jump near her vehicle. Curious, she turned her head for a second to look.

“So I turned my head to see if I actually saw something…By the time I turned (back) there was this huge beast in front of my car [and] clearly I didn’t have enough time to stop,” she said. “That was the end of my little car.”

Goulart crashed into the animal, knocking out its hind legs. Her Passat’s windshield was smashed and the rear wheels had been “lifted off the floor” from the sheer weight of the animal.

In shock, Goulart first called her husband who then dialed 911 and told them his wife’s whereabouts.

Goulart’s husband and his hunting group was the first to arrive on the scene. The authorities then arrived 45 minutes after the call. When they did, they realized the animal on Goulart’s car was still alive, and had to shoot it.

“They took it out of its misery because I had broken its back,” she said. “So they shot it.”

Fully grown male deer can weigh up to 290 lbs. If the animal was killed in the crash, the body has to be removed from the road.

According to Dickson, the “first person who has the right to take the carcass is the driver.” If the driver does not want the animal, depending on where the animal was killed, methods of disposal vary.

“If it’s on the roadway itself, we drag it off,” he said. “Or we call our roads department who will come and scoop it up and either put it in the dump or a convenient location where nature takes it course.”

The deer that Sang hit in 2009 died upon impact. Sang suffered from some superficial injuries and fractured his neck, an injury that took over a year to recover from.

Today, Sang works for Global National news in Vancouver and says there are still some things that he is unable to do.

“I can’t cradle the phone with my shoulders,” he laughs. “It’s silly that I can’t do that and I refuse to buy those Bluetooth devices…It’s not a big deal. I’m alive and I’m here. I’m not going to make a big deal over the fact that I can’t cradle the phone with my shoulder.”

Goulart, on the other hand, suffered minor cuts, whiplash and worsened her present back problems. She also added she is afraid of going back up north, especially on a highway when it’s dark.

“I have never gone back up there when they go hunting,” she said. “Anywhere at night if it’s not a highway that’s lit, I won’t drive. I’m paranoid.”

The Ministry of Transportation recommends drivers to scan the road ahead very carefully for wildlife signage. If you do spot an animal, do not swerve because “swerving to avoid hitting a wild animal may result in a more serious collision.”

But Dickson said the best tip is to watch your speed.

“The No. 1 preventative measure is speed,” he said. “So slow down!”

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