The neighborhood of Somerset, N.J that we live in has been developed recently, much of it over the past fifteen or twenty years. Earlier, it used to be farmland and there were many wild creatures, including deer, roaming about freely. As humans encroach on their habitat , the deer have come under increasing pressure. They have nowhere else to go and as they try to make their way to water, they fall victim to drivers. Not a week goes by that I do not pass the carcass of a deer lying by the roadside. The authorities try their best to avoid such accidents by posting ” Deer Crossing” signs along well known routes that the deer take to their waterholes, However, deer turn up in the most unpredictable places and , particularly at dusk and at night, they are impossible to see in time .
Cut to Buchholz, Germany where we were recently: This town too is surrounded by farmland and, I was sure, frequented by deer ; yet I never saw a deer carcass by the roadside in the three days I spent there. I asked our German host about it and he said that yes, the drivers there also had such accidents with deer but the rules were very strict. Any driver who collided with a deer was expected to pull over, call the police and wait until they arrived. When the police came to the scene, they would put the deer out of its misery if it was still alive and arrange for the carcass to be immediately removed. The driver faced no penalties except if he left the scene of the accident before the police arrived; in that case ,he faced heavy penalties. I thought to myself that this was a sensible arrangement, so much better than the situation here in the U.S where deer carcasses are left lying by the roadside for days, sometimes even a week before the authorities are notified and set about removing them.
Then, in the course of another unrelated conversation, our host told me the following story: His adult daughter was biking through a village when she came to a crossroads and a STOP sign. She looked both ways and there was absolutely no car in sight. Thereupon , she crossed the road without coming to a full stop. Out of nowhere, a police car came roaring up and a policeman stopped her and demanded to see her license. He then proceeded to write her a ticket for not having stopped at the sign. The infraction cost her a whopping one hundred euros( about $ 120) but , even worse, she got penalty points on her driving license. She pleaded with the policeman that she was not driving a car and that she should at least be spared the points on her license. No dice, he said. ” The rules apply whether you are in a car or on a bike”.
I’m all for rules but I felt that the policeman’s actions were an abuse of power. I hope it was just an isolated incident with this one policeman throwing his weight around. I would hate to think that his behavior was the norm.