Cars

Deer in headlights; a scary experience; Ford’s coming taxi

CROWD-PLEASER: Ford is upping the ante in the taxi market with a longer, more fuel efficient Transit Connect, one that also is CNG/LPG-adaptable.
CROWD-PLEASER: Ford is upping the ante in the taxi market with a longer, more fuel efficient Transit Connect, one that also is CNG/LPG-adaptable.PHOTO: FORD

A deer-in-the-headlights look is downright scary when the deer is real and standing in the road in front of you.

We recently got to see eye-to-eye with one of Bambi’s relatives on Rte. 1A where it crosses through the Great Marsh by the Rowley-Newbury line.

It was a gorgeous September evening, and Mrs. G was only too happy to go for an ice-cream cruise in our 35-year-old El Camino.

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Heading South through the marsh just before sunset, she commented, “This seems to be the kind of place where you’d come across a deer in the road.”

“Yup,” I answered, “but I’ve never seen one here.”

That changed about an hour later as we headed north on the way home. It was now dark. There were no streetlights and no other cars on the road.

The headlights picked up a reflection (deer eyes) followed by light legs. I stood on the (non-ABS) brakes and swerved to the right, then back to the left when the deer blocked that space.

We slid to a tire-smoking halt at a 45-degree angle across our lane just short of the deer which took a couple of slow steps, then bounded off into the marsh.

Four recent repairs helped in the stop. The old sealed-beam headlights were a little brighter because Dick, my old car guru, had rebuilt and upgraded the alternator. The brake pedal was firmer thanks to a new master cylinder. New tires and a rebuilt front end made the maneuver a bit more secure.

“Good thing no one was behind us,” said Mrs. G.

“Good thing we didn’t hit it,” I replied, shaky at the thought I could have been “parting-out” the El Camino (actually a GMC Caballero).

How lucky were we? According to State Farm, the nation’s leading auto insurer, the odds of an American driver striking a deer over the coming year is 1 in 174, a 4.3 percent improvement when compared with 1 in 167 chance the previous year.

The insurer estimates that there were 1.22 million collisions caused by the presence of deer between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013. And the average cost of repairs was $3,414.

The most dangerous state, for the seventh straight year, is West Virginia (1 in 41), followed by Montana (1 in 65), Iowa (1 in 73), South Dakota (1 in 75), and Pennsylvania (1 in 77). On the other end of the scale, Hawaii drivers only have a 1 in 6,787 chance of hitting a deer in a given year.

Massachusetts drivers are among the least likely to hit a deer, ranking 45th (1 in 524) behind Vermont (31st, 1 in 191), Maine (32nd, 1 in 207), New Hampshire (36th, 1 in 279), Connecticut (38th, 1 in 314), and Rhode Island (42nd, 1 in 314).

“But it only takes one deer to wander out in front of you,” says Arlene Lester of State Farm public affairs.

Fall is prime time for these deer-vehicle encounters of the worst kind.

Approximately 18 percent take place during November, in the heart of the deer hunting and mating seasons. October is the second-most dangerous month, followed by December.

There’s no way to keep large animals like deer and even more dangerous elk and moose off highways.

While some drivers swear by deer whistles mounted on the front bumper, the Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) says no evidence supports that claim.

Instead State Farm advises:

• Stay alert: A Deer Crossing warning sign means you won’t be the first driver to hit one in the area. If you see one deer, be alert for others in the group.

• Peak season: Fall is peak time. Hunters and mating season have deer roaming.

• Peak time: 6-9 p.m. and the hours around dawn.

• High beams: Watch for the telltale reflections.

• Be aware of traffic: Sadly, it’s likely better to hit the deer than to swerve into oncoming traffic or to stop suddenly and be rear-ended.

Ford’s Next Taxi

Manufacturers like to be well represented in specialty markets such as livery service, police vehicles … and taxis.

Nissan, pending lawsuits, is scheduled to officially become New York City’s “Taxi of Tomorrow,” a competition it won back in 2011. That program is scheduled to be implemented later this month when all non-hybrid new taxis must be the company’s NV200 van.

However, there are lots of other cities out there, and Ford wants its all-new 2014 Transit Connect Taxi to be on those streets. The vehicle was introduced last month at the International Association of Transportation Regulators Conference in St. Louis.

The Transit Connect will have an available prep package allowing it to be converted to compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). The vehicle also will have a lower physical profile, allowing for rooftop signs and easier ingress.

This already is the second generation of the taxi. The coming one is longer, offering seating for five and increased luggage capacity, and smoother, thanks to a durable twist-beam rear suspension.

Etc.

Today is Tutto Lite at Larz Anderson Auto Museum. Unlike Tutto Italiano in August, which is judged by experts, this gathering of all motorized Italian vehicles is a people’s choice event … Also today is a GM (Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Cadillac) fall show at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel in Marlboro and the Dover Historical Society’s Old Home Day antique and special interest car show … Ray Ciccolo, president and CEO of the Village Automotive Group, received Cadillac’s Master Dealer of the Year Award for overall excellence in sales performance, customer satisfaction, operating standards, and industry leadership.

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