With the arrival of the fall season, drivers on North Carolina roads need to be on the alert for an increase in the possibility of collisions with deer. About 90 percent of all reported animal-related crashes involve deer, and 50 percent of those crashes traditionally take place in the months of October through December.
A N.C. Department of Transportation study shows that in 2012, there were 20,181 animal-related crashes. That is the lowest number in three years, but helped boost the three-year total of crashes to 61,688, with 20 fatalities, nearly 3,500 injuries and more than $144 million in damages.
In Ashe County, according to DOT statistics, there were 53 animal-related crashes in 2012, down from the 83 recorded in 2011.
“This is the time of year that drivers need to be extra focused and alert,” said NCDOT Director of Mobility and Safety Kevin Lacy. “We have the combination of increased deer activity and it is getting darker sooner in the evening.”
Deer activity is on the increase as a result of the mating and hunting seasons. Crashes are most common between 5 and 8 a.m., and from 6 p.m. to midnight. That is when more vehicles are on the road, deer movement increases, and limited visibility makes it more difficult for motorists to see them on or near roadways.
Wake County leads all counties in the number of animal-related crashes for the 10th year in a row, although the 991 crashes reported last year was its lowest figure since 2006. Its high ranking is primarily the result of the large number of drivers and roadway mileage in the county, combined with the abundance of wooded areas.
Guilford County was a distant second at 668 crashes, followed by Pitt (619), Duplin (596) and Johnston (492) counties.
Counties in the far western section of the state, where there are considerably fewer roads and drivers, reported the lowest number of crashes. Graham County is at the bottom of the list with only seven crashes, just below Jackson (12) and Swain (nine) counties.
NCDOT offers the following suggestions for motorists to avoid being in a deer-vehicle crash:
• Slow down in posted deer crossing areas and heavily wooded areas, especially during the late afternoon and evening;
• Statistics indicate most deer-vehicle crashes occur near bridges or overpasses., and they also follow railroad tracks, streams and ditches;
• Drive with high beams on when possible, and watch out for eyes reflecting in the headlights;
• Remember that deer often travel in groups, so do not assume that the road is clear if one deer has already passed;
• Do not swerve to avoid contact with deer. This could cause you to lose control of the vehicle, flipping it over, veering it into oncoming traffic or overcorrecting and running off the road, causing a more serious crash;
• Slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten the deer away;
• Increase the distance between your vehicle and other cars, especially at night. If the car ahead of you hits a deer, you may also become involved in the accident;
• Always wear your seat belt. Most people injured in deer-vehicle crashes were not wearing their seat belt;
• Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences or reflectors to deter deer as these devices have not been proven to reduce deer-vehicle crashes; and
• If your vehicle strikes a deer, do not touch the animal. A frightened and wounded deer can hurt you or further injure itself. The best procedure is to get your car off the road if possible, and call 911.