Editorial: Of time, elections and roadkill

Kaye Kohler

At 2 a.m. this Sunday, Nov. 2, daylight savings time ends. Be sure and set your clocks and watches. But even if you forget, typically you’ll have a full day of rest, since it’s a Sunday, to get readjusted for Monday’s work week ahead.

But our fellow mammalian inhabitants of Rappahannock County, not to mention the odd reptiles and amphibians, aren’t so lucky. For they have only their biological clocks to rely upon. They have no idea that the somewhat predictable patterns of humans’ autos and trucks will suddenly be altered.

So it is that the carnage on our roads usually peaks in autumn and spring, precisely around the dates that digital and mechanical clocks change from standard to daylight savings time and back again. The fact that animals are more likely to be migrating or mating during these seasons doesn’t help. Moreover, animals tend to move about when they’re less visible to predators — that is, dawn and dusk, precisely when human clock changes most alter commuter traffic patterns.  

Recent studies have found that animal-related collisions result in an average of 26,000 human injuries and 200 deaths annually across the nation. Collisions with deer alone cost more than $8.3 billion. But, from the animals’ point of view, more meaningful measurements would include the fact that, according to another recent study, as many as 340 million birds are killed annually by vehicles. For even smaller animals like salamanders and frogs, the numbers are impossible to tally.

Most collisions occur on two-lane highways that have relatively low traffic volume, such as here in Rappahannock. Random cars and trucks, with no patterns discernible to animals, are the most lethal — especially when they’re speeding.  

The only pragmatic solution is for drivers to be mindful, slow down and stay alert. Come to think about it, that’s probably not bad advice for voters, too, this Election Day, Nov. 4. Be pragmatic, not ideological — for the best, most practical, problem-solving solutions usually transcend the question of one’s narrow notion of being right. In this respect, we can learn something from the animals, who are never ideological.

Walter Nicklin