Q In response to your question of what to do in the event of running over a pet, I'll share my story.
A Last week Britta Erickson, of Palo Alto, lamented the loss of three cats who were hit by hit-and-run drivers who she believes were speeding through a residential street to skirt traffic jams on nearby El Camino Real. She asked what drivers should do when they hit someone's pet. Dozens responded.
Q I had the traumatizing experience of running over a cat when I was 16, only a few months after getting my license. I was driving back from a friend's house on Leigh Avenue in San Jose and saw the cat run across the road. I was going too fast to stop or swerve in time, and knew that I hit the cat.
I stopped immediately and walked to where the cat was. There was no hope for the cat, and I was frozen. A police officer drove up, coincidentally, moved the cat to the side of the road, checked for tags, and since there wasn't one, said there was nothing to do. I definitely learned a lesson and always drive within speed limits in residential areas.
A Good for you.
Q In 1971 a dog ran in front of my car and I struck it. When I stopped, the owner ran out, kicked my car, yelled at me, hit me in the mouth while I was still strapped into my seat and ordered me to leave. I've never hit a pet since, but I wouldn't stop if I did.
A Ouch. I feel your pain.
Q I was driving up Graham Hill Road in Santa Cruz when a cat darted across the road. There was no way to stop, and I hit her. I pulled over, along with a woman in a pickup, and we followed the cat under some shrubs, where she died in front of us. It was traumatic to see that cat's final painful moments.
We found the owner's address on her tag, so we put her into a box, closed the top, and left it in a corner of the front porch after finding nobody home. Rather than have the owner find a dead cat with no explanation, I left a note and told them where to find their cat. I also left my phone number and said I was very upset about killing their pet. I still recall that event whenever I pass their home.
A Very compassionate. And ...
Q As I have not had the misfortune of hitting a dog or cat, I cannot answer your question. However, the column reminds me of the advice I repeatedly gave my children as they learned to drive. I told them that braking to avoid an animal was, of course, appropriate. However, I repeatedly cautioned them that they should not take other evasive measures. The risk of a collision and subsequent risk to their well-being or the well-being of others was not justified to potentially avoid running over an animal.
A Many of my traffic cop contacts agree with you.
Q I clipped a dog while driving the neighborhood speed limit. Though the dog scurried away, I did stop and knock on a nearby door. I was told not to worry about the incident and that the dog is often loose and this happens all the time. I was rattled the rest of the day. I appreciate the occasional pet that slips outside, but if you care about your animal keep it inside or in your yard.
A Many readers agree with Mary.
Q Most of the time I agree with you, but this time I am screaming. I don't understand people that let their pets run loose and then expect the public to take care of them. When their animals are hurt or killed they blame the motorist instead of themselves. When you get a pet, you have a responsibility to take care of it. Do not let it run loose. If people do not want to take care of their pets, then give them to someone who will take the responsibility.
A I have a feeling many more will weigh in on this issue.