The deer are traveling this season. Ah, yes, they are traveling.

Just as we were Saturday, Nov. 18, before dawn. We were headed south on Interstate 95 to Massachusetts to visit a relative, when I said to Phil, we’d better watch out for deer.

Just moments later a big one was right in front of us, eyes wide in the headlights, and bam!

No warning, no time to avoid hitting it.

The deer crashed into the right front fender and hood and swung around to the passenger door, its head smashing the window, showering me with glass. For a split second, I thought we were goners.

But my quick-thinking husband, whom I believe moved the wheel slightly at a critical time to avoid a worse outcome, pulled over into the breakdown lane where we knew we were at least safe from speeding trucks and cars.

We were just north of exit 109 in Augusta.

I dialed 911 and got Somerset Regional Communications Center in Skowhegan, which transferred me to State Police. I gave them our location.

“Do you need Rescue?” the dispatcher asked.

I said I didn’t know. We did not hurt anywhere, but everything had happened so fast. That’s how it is when something traumatic like that happens. You may think you’re not hurt, and then a while later, you are screaming in pain, I thought. My instinct was to have them come and check us out, but I asked Phil if we needed them and he didn’t think so, so I declined.

As we waited for the wrecker and state trooper to arrive, I tried to open my door, but it wouldn’t budge. Phil wanted to get out and look for the deer, but I insisted that he should not, as it was still dark and I feared he would get killed by a passing truck.

I started picking up pieces of glass from the inside of my Ford Fusion — which I had only purchased two months prior, by the way.

As the cars and trucks whizzed by, we thought about how things can change in an instant, even if you’re careful, even if you think you are prepared.

We are always telling our friends, “Watch out for deer. Scan either side of the road as you are driving, and if one deer crosses the road, chances are another one will follow.”

I don’t know how many times we have seen deer in or near the road. About a year ago, two moose crossed in front of us on U.S. Route 201 in Hinckley. They emerged from out of nowhere in the darkness, two hulking creatures lumbering across the road. We managed to miss them, but how many motorists don’t have that luxury?

According to Duane Brunell, who works in the safety office at the Maine Department of Transportation, a whopping 4,177 deer crashes have occurred so far in Maine this year and this is the peak time for crashes with deer. He said that to some extent, crash frequency is related to the health of the herd.

It is critical, he said, that motorists stay away from any distractions while driving, that they stay on high alert and drive with the knowledge that anything can happen at any time.

After our state trooper and wrecker driver arrived after our crash, we took a breath and took inventory, determining we had emerged from the wreck unscathed, though I couldn’t say the same for my poor car. It looked like it had been whacked by an elephant.

Riding in the wrecker to a collision center in Waterville, I called our insurance carrier and told her the bad news. The good news, as she so aptly noted, is that we were not hurt.

We dropped off the car, and the wrecker driver was kind enough to ferry us to our house 2 miles away.

We drove to a rental place in Phil’s vehicle where I got a car. We returned home, still a little stunned and feeling discombobulated.

I called our relative in Massachusetts to say we would not make it, did some household chores, and went out in the sunshine to dig the last of our carrots from the garden. Later, we had a nice dinner with friends and called it a day.

As we recover from the shock of the crash, we feel badly about the car and the deer — which apparently wandered away after leaving a tuft of fur wedged in the wreckage of my car.

As we headed into Thanksgiving week, our friends kept telling us things can be replaced, but people can’t.

Though it is a well-worn phrase, we realize more and more as time ticks on that we’re awfully lucky to be alive. And that’s something to be thankful for.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter for 29 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.