I live in a town that’s essentially just hacked out of a huge forest, and as a result, I share my space with deer. Deer are elegant-looking animals, and when I see some wandering around my backyard, it’s usually a pleasant experience. They’re also hundreds of pounds of mammalian moron wrapped up in a tick-infested fur coat, and one of these ruminant fuckers jumped out right in front of my moving Pao the other night, in a decision that worked out well for nobody involved. I’m here to complain about deer, and what they did to my beloved little car.
What’s especially maddening is that on the night that the deer and I collided I had been driving the Pao an awful lot; I’ve been in Greece for the past week on an Audi trip, so I wanted to spend some good time with my kid, so we drove about three hours into the more mountainous parts of North Carolina.
So, over six hours of travel time in the plucky little Pao, which did great, even if you have to accept that the little sub-1-liter engine is going to ask to be downshifted into third up some of those mountain roads and is not interested in going up them in a hurry.
Anyway, we get back home, I make a detour to see a friend who’s in town, and on the way back from there, driving down a major in-town road that’s fairly dark and bordered by forest on one side, I encountered this stupid young buck.
The thing about deer is that, aside from seemingly having zero understanding about how moving objects work, they are very quiet and lack any sort of DOT-approved lighting equipment. Even their fur is unreflective. They’re stealthy on a dark road.
This isn’t even the first time I’ve smacked into one of these furry jerks.
That’s what makes them so dangerous. Otto and I are tooling along just fine, and then out of absolutely nowhere my windshield is filled with the image of a massive animal, rendered an eerie glowing gold by the light from my headlights.
I don’t have a dashcam, but I do have eyes, a rudimentary brain, and hands, and that image is well-seared into my brain, so I quickly drew what it looked like:
That’s quick and dirty, but feels about right. One moment nothing but road, the next a big golden beast and a thunk, followed quickly by the realization of what happened, and the sickening reminder that time only flows one way, and what’s done is done.
I pulled off the road to assess the damage, and while it’s painful to look at, it could have been much, much worse.
First, Otto, seat-belted in the back seat, was fine. I, up front and belted, was, too. We were on a city road, so only going about 35 or 40, but as I didn’t see the deer at all, I didn’t brake, so that’s about the speed of impact.
From the looks of it, the deer hit on the upper grille/hood area. The hood is fiberglass or some similar composite, and you can see the big crack there; it’s a bit springy, so I suspect that may have absorbed a lot of the impact.
The grille is shattered, as is the right headlamp unit and the foglamp. The radiator is well boned, though the bumper is surprisingly intact, and thankfully the composite fender appears unhurt.
Under the hood—which I had to open by awkwardly removing the two hinge bolts on the right—I can see the core support there in front is bent, that air cleaner elephant-trunk intake is kinked, and it looks like the A/C compressor fan shield is a bit bent. The alternator also seems to have been shoved back a bit, so the alternator belt is very loose, but hopefully it just rotated on its adjustment bracket.
The car drove home basically fine, though I could hear the radiator hissing in pain and anger.
I went back to the scene of the accident to look for my Japanese front license plate, which I found. While there, I also found the deer, who made it to the side of the road and collapsed in a muddy puddle to die.
It looked like a miserable way to go, and I felt bad for the big dummy. I’m told we’re in deer mating season now, and the already not-so-bright deer are rendered even less capable of good decision making when they’re all horny, giving their brains a total of three separate motivations: hunger, fear, and humping, and they seem to be very unsuited to that level of multi-processing.
All of this did make me wonder if a more modern car with Automatic Emergency Braking or something would have helped, and, honestly, I’m not sure it would have. The deer came at the car perpendicular to my vector of travel, so it’s not like coming up too fast on an object already in front of you; the time the deer intersected my path was pretty minimal, and when he crossed, he was right in front of me.
Maybe an advanced AEB system could have jammed on the brakes, but there wouldn’t have been time to totally stop. A purely visual, camera-based system wouldn’t have had much better luck, though a radar system that had a field of view that extended to the sides of the car might have been able to detect something?
I’m not really sure. I’m skeptical it would have done much, but maybe?
The good news is I have comprehensive insurance, so the Pao’s face will get fixed. Already, members of the Pao community have been helping out; my Pao-owning friend Atilla came by to help assess, and already has leads on a hood, headlight, core support, and grille.
There are better aluminum replacement radiators I can get, and I’m pretty confident my Pao will come out of this as good or better.
It’s just hard to look at that face all bashed in. On modern cars, with their generally agressive, more brutal faces, I’m not sure this sort of damage would hit so hard, but the Pao is just so damn friendly looking, it just stings a bit more to see it like this. You just feel more empathy. I mean, look:
You feel for the inanimate object, right? Can’t be just me, all irrational like this.
I’ll get it fixed, Otto and I are fine, and overall this could have gone much, much worse. I mean, for the deer, it kinda did, and I hope any deer reading this take this as a warning: get yourselves some lights, or at least reflective vests.
Make noise when you cross a road! And for fuck’s sake, look at what’s going on! Don’t just bolt across! Come on, deer!
Also, the city I live in has seen a lot of construction that’s forcing deer out into areas with more cars and people. They really should be considering this more, and maybe fencing off areas of forest, or providing those wildlife bridges over roads.
As much as I like to shit-talk deer, it’s really not all their fault.
I’ll update on the repair process, so anyone considering daily driving a fairly uncommon JDM car can get a sense of what it’s like to do extensive body repairs on one of these. Also, this did force me to fix the Yugo’s wipers and brake lights yesterday, so that’s another upside, I suppose.