Preventable or not? Deer delivers dilemma to truck operator

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Updated Jan 22, 2019

Should he swap some vintage Winchesters for Billy Bob’s rusty but wonderfully loud ol’ Harley? “Yep, I surely will,” trucker John Doe decided, smiling at the prospect of a second childhood. As a fresh, crunchy celery stick disappeared into his mouth to celebrate the decision, Doe saw that it was 10 p.m. with fair weather, light traffic and his favorite country-western station on satellite radio.

But Doe’s luck was about to change. A minute later, as his tractor-trailer began to descend a steep grade on North Carolina’s dark heavily-wooded Pookatella Pike … Holy groundhogs! A six-point buck suddenly decided to race across the highway from the opposing side! Almost choking on his celery stick, Doe hit the brakes hard.

Then, in a desperate attempt to avoid hitting the deer, Doe steered his tractor hard right, partially off the roadway. As a result, he missed the deer but heavily sideswiped the guardrail – the only thing between his rig and a deadly dropoff – and destroyed his right front fender. Later, he contested the warning letter from his safety director that charged him with a preventable accident.

Asked to resolve the controversy, the National Safety Council’s Accident Review Committee upheld the preventable ruling. By reacting as he did, Doe easily could have driven his big rig through the guardrail and off the side of the mountain, probably resulting in his own death. In sum, it would have been far safer to have kept his rig on the road and, if fate decreed, flattened the deer. Had he struck the animal, the accident probably would have been ruled non-preventable.