Editor: I was the driver of the vehicle shown in the photograph accompanying the article. I was the lone occupant. I am writing to you because the headline does little to convey the trauma I experienced, or continue to go through.
I strongly feel that if you do not convey the feelings drivers who strike elk on the highway, there will be no desire to fence the highway. I ask you to pass this letter on to anyone who is in a position of authority before your headlines report a fatality instead of “vehicle damage.”
It was 7:30 p.m. and I was driving a 2015 Dodge Durango in the inside lane of the Trans-Canada Highway. I had brand new (Dec. 26) winter tires fitted. The road was dry, free of ice and snow and visibility was good. I was increasing speed after exiting the Banff Park gates and estimate I had reached between 100 and 110 km/h.
An elk ran at the car from the roadside. I braked as hard as I could and swerved to the outside lane. The elk struck the front passenger side of the my SUV and the passenger side air bag went off. I saw the elk and upper body of the elk on the middle of the hood of my SUV just as my knee air bag went off and the steering wheel air bag too.
The elk I had just killed was blocking the inside lane and partly blocking the hard shoulder along with debris. My SUV was blocking the outside lane.
When the fire brigade arrived, they checked I was safe and they tried to start my SUV in order to move it off the highway. It would not start. An ambulance arrived to check my injuries and apart from airbag abrasions to both my wrists, airbag bruising to my stomach and right leg, I was declared well and not in need of hospital treatment. I called the AMA to tow my vehicle. The fire engine blocked the road until my vehicle was on the tow truck and the firemen swept all the debris off the road. A police vehicle arrived and I gave a statement. I did not leave the scene until 9 p.m. in the tow truck.
It’s one week since the collision.
My wrists hurt. My right leg is bruised from ankle to mid thigh and swollen around my knee. Where the powder and explosive charge went across the flesh of my leg I have abrasions, which look like burns.
My Durango is a complete write off and we have already bought a replacement, a Durango because my husband and I are convinced that the height of the hood and the air bags saved my life. I was screaming from the moment I saw the elk and that’s because I was convinced from the second I saw it running at me that it was coming through the windshield.
I have been having nightmares and flashbacks. Seeing the eyes of the elk as it saw my car coming at it and the head of the elk when it was on the hood of my SUV. There was fur stuck inside the paintwork in the middle of my SUV’s hood. Yesterday, I drove from Banff to Canmore, past the scene of the collision and I had palpitations, a dry mouth and experienced sheer terror.
The collision with the elk is the closest I have come to losing my life on a highway. I am a 10-year Royal Air Force veteran and despite the dangerous activities I took part in, I have never in my life heard myself scream with the terror that I heard last Thursday night. I can only imagine what the other drivers and passengers went through.
I would like to express my sincere and heartfelt gratitude to all the other car occupants that stopped to help me and in some cases, hugged me in the immediate aftermath. The fire department was incredible because as well as dealing with cars driving past the scene of the collisions, sweeping up the debris and dealing with the dead elk, they also allowed me to shelter inside the fire truck while I waited for my tow truck to arrive. The police officer was also wonderful.
I hope that this letter is read by a person of authority who understands that I was close to losing my life. An elk on the hood of the car is almost an elk inside the vehicle. It’s a sad loss of a defenseless animal and unnecessary. Please take action before more elk die and before a human loses their life.
If nothing else, post flashing signs warning that an elk herd is crossing the highway; not all drivers that use that road are local so most, like me, are unaware that you have a herd living there.