Ahmet is driving a 4,500-lb. van at 70 mph.  He strikes Bambi, a 150-lb. deer. moving at 30 mph. Solve for the estimated amount of force (Newtons) generated by the impact.  Show your work.

Admit it.  Many of you just had a flashback to math class. Some of you enthusiastically reached for your trusty slide-rule.  Those of you under age 50 googled “slide-rule.”  The rest of us just try to comprehend how a delicious fig-based Nabisco product got into the word problem.

Regardless of how one feels about physics or figs, every year a large number of God’s magnificently noble creatures (or tick-infested pests, for those of you with gardens) meet their Maker in collisions with vehicles.  Statistics from the Insurance Institute report over a million such claims every year, costing billions of dollars.  On average, one out of every 164 drivers will smack into a Prince of the Forest.  The damage per incident averages between $3,000 and $4,000.  (A caveat to some of these statistics is that they often include collisions with larger elk and moose.  Hitting a 1,000-lb. moose involves many more Newtons … and they’re not the delicious kind that you have to floss the seeds out of your teeth.)

For the record, insurance company data shows that the country roads of West Virginia are the most dangerous locale in the U.S. for drivers and deer alike.  I blame singing along to John Denver.  The least likely state in which to have such an incident? You guessed it.  Hawaii.  (Yes, they do have deer there … just not quite as many as elsewhere.  Deer can swim, but Michael Phelps they ain’t.)

Fearless math types could crunch (pun intended) the numbers on Righteous Rides having about 100 vans on the road at any given time and come up with the slightly disturbing odds of one of their vehicles bouncing Bambi into the Great Beyond.  (Let’s just leave it at “rather high.”  I’m firmly with the cookie crowd… )

Scary statistics aside, a recent incident report from one of Righteous Rides’ client missionaries illustrates the issue.

At 11:30 p.m. on a recent Sunday evening, Ahmett and his family were zipping along in van 8396 on southbound I-95 just outside of Walterboro, South Carolina. (No, we have no idea who Walter was, or why he got his very own “boro.”)  A member of Odocoileus Virginianus (that would be a white-tailed deer for you uncultured Philistines…) leapt out in front of the vehicle.  Screech. Thud.   Spoiler alert:  Thank the Lord, Ahmet and his family were not injured, and made it safely to their motel. The deer?  Well, we’ll be moving along now…

Some helpful tips if you do the Bambi bump:

  • Get off the road, and turn on your flashers. Assuming you can find the flashers. Engineers at Chrysler, which manufactures the vans that Righteous Rides provides, seem to delight in befuddling missionaries by moving various dashboard controls around.   “The 2019’s are in!  Just guess where we put the shift lever this year!”
  • Document the incident, preferably with some photographs.But NO DEER SELFIES, please. It’s a little gross, and I doubt you’ll get the deer to smile.
  • Don’t approach the alleged victim (Yes, I’m talking about the deer. Let’s not quibble at the moment about who actually hit whom.)Scary cookie-based math aside, it is possible you may have merely stunned it, and it might not take kindly to your frisking it looking for an insurance card.  Odds are it won’t do your deputation efforts much good to have a headline in the Walterboro paper read:  “Missionary Loses Fistfight With Local Wildlife.”

(Obligatory obscure humor:  Do deer even have insurance?  If they do, I bet it’s with The Hartford.  Go ahead.  Look it up. I’ll wait.  Points if you didn’t have to…)

  • If fluid is leaking from the vehicle post-collision, check to see if you can determine from whence it came. Hopefully, not you.  Not sure what kind of fluid it is? An old mechanic’s trick is to taste the fluid. If it’s bitter, it’s most likely washer fluid.  If it has a more “Kool-Aid” taste to it, then it’s probably coolant (and your mother made really horrible Kool-Aid…).  Note: Drinking anti-freeze is NOT a smart thing to do, even if some old Louisiana mechanic swears it goes great with Newtons.

Back to our incident report:  Righteous Rides always tries to keep a couple of “spares” on hand for break-downs, fender benders, or un-expected venison gathering.  Intrepid RR regulars Layne and Shirley loaded van 827 on the trailer and were able to head out by Wednesday morning for a 13-hour rainy trek to the Southeast.  They were able to get Ahmet and crew back on the road with only a few days’ delay, and return with the now less-than-perfect 8396.

(Semi-shameless appeal:  Perhaps you’d like to help out with Righteous Rides’ efforts at serving the missions community, but swapping out transmissions is a bit above your pay-grade. If you’ve got some spare time and aren’t intimidated by driving a vehicle pulling a trailer, you could be dispatched on a rescue mission.  After all, Righteous Rides was founded on the principle of using skills God gave you to give a little back.  Righteous Rides is pretty good at finding things for people to do. Sign up to volunteer HERE.)

Van 8396 is now back in the shop.  There are things to be done.   The wrench-turners are pondering the parts bins, and looking slightly thirstily at a puddle of fluid dripping from the radiator.  The clean-up and detailing crew are holding an emergency prayer meeting, hoping they don’t find bits of Bambi, and flipping coins to see who has to go look.   The office folks are filling out perpetual paperwork, and debating why there’s no “S” in Walterboro or how many “T’s” there should be in Ahmet.   The fearless math crew are rapidly depleting all available white-board space since someone was stupid enough to bring up moose Newtons.  The rest of us got hungry, so we made a run for the regular kind.

There’s more to this story.  Stay tuned for the next installment.

Want some helpful tips on how to avoid hitting deer?  Check out this article.