Be careful, deer


Three deer have been killed recently in collisions with automobiles in a five-block stretch on Belliare Boulevard in Houston, Texas, within the past month. This has prompted Houston Police to urge the deer to be extra cautious when walking along the city streets.

Deer crossing the stroad without the aid of a crosswalk. Houston police are encouraging an end to this reckless behavior. (Click for license.)Police officials say so far this year, there have been 15 crashes where deer were killed, a roughly 11 percent increase from the same time frame in 2013.

Department officials outlined a number of precautions the deer should take. Among them are:

  • Do not walk across the street unless you are at a crosswalk.
  • Take the extra minute or two to walk to a crosswalk.
  • Obey traffic signals of Walk / Don't Walk.
  • Look before you step.
  • Do not assume vehicles will stop. Make eye contact with a driver; don't just look at a vehicle.
  • Dress to be seen. Wear light colored clothing if walking at night and carry a flashlight, if possible.
  • Do not wear headphones or talk on a cell phone while walking across the street.
  • Be especially careful in construction zones.

Houston is spending considerable wealth in an effort to relieve automobile congestion, increase the flow of traffic and improve travel speeds. There is no word from City Hall on whether or not Houston is reevauating priorities and shifting resources to address the safety issues of deer within the community.

The designated sidewalk is two blocks over yet this deer is found walking along the edge of the stroad. Houston police have issued caution to deer. (Click for license.)All I can say is, thank goodness I'm not a deer. Imagine if I had to try to walk through these auto-dominated areas with only this sage advice to protect me. Wear light colored clothing indeed! Have you ever seen a deer talking on a cell phone while walking? Totally reckless behavior -- they are almost asking for it. Save that stuff for when you are driving.

Let's never forget, the forgiving design concepts standardized by the engineering profession apply to cars, not deer. We need to design to forgive the common and casual mistakes of drivers, ensuring that those routine and easily anticipated mistakes do not result in collisions or, worse, fatalities. There is no way we can apply this thinking to the ungulates among us. We engineers should not be expected to design places that take into account the normal and predictable behavior of deer and plan for their safety. That's not only beyond our professional charge, it may simply be impossible (without slowing down the cars).

Come on, deer. Take that extra minute or two to walk to the crosswalk. And look before you step. Nobody wants to see that messy venison on the side of the road during their morning commute.