As temperatures cool down, animal-related crashes surge, NCDOT warns

Deer crossing the road (Pixabay)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s deer season in North Carolina — and that means it’s not just hunting season, it’s also the time of year when deer vs. vehicle collisions pick up, the North Carolina Department of Transportation warns.

This is the time of year when deer start showing up in greater numbers along roads across the state. That, of course, means that there’s a great chance that vehicles will hit the animals.

There were 17,901 collisions between animals and vehicles across the state in 2016. That number was only slightly lower than in 2015 when there were 18,037 collisions, the NCDOT said.

The past three years have seen close to 54,000 collisions, the majority of those being with deer. The latest animal collision study conducted by the NCDOT showed that those crashes resulted in the deaths of 14 people and seriously injured 51 others. There were 3,356 total injuries and caused approximately $136 million in property damage.

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“This time of year, it is especially important for all of us to watch for deer,” said NCDOT Secretary Jim Trogdon.

Wake County was once again the leader in the number of animal-related crashes with 730. It was the 14th straight year that Wake County led the state. Although 730 may seem like a lot, that number represents a drop of more than 100 from 2015, the NCDOT said. Pitt County came in second place with 550 animal collisions.

Over the past three years, Wake County had over 730 more animal-related crashes than any other county. The high number is attributed to the increasing number of drivers and road mileage in the county, which still has considerable wooded acreage, the NCDOT said.

Guilford County had the third-highest figure at 549 crashes, followed by Duplin, Union, Mecklenburg, Columbus, Randolph, Brunswick and Forsyth counties.

Counties in the far western part of the state have fewer drivers and roads, so they had the lowest number of animal crashes. Graham County had just eight, while Swain County had 10, according to the NCDOT.

Deer are on the roads more during the fall into early winter due to the hunting and mating seasons. Deer also have the tendency to travel more during times when it is tougher to see them, at dawn and at dusk.

With the end of daylight savings time at 2 a.m. on Nov. 5, it increases the chance of deer being by roadways when more drivers are on the road for the morning and afternoon commutes.

November usually records the highest number of animal-related crashes, totaling around 22 percent of the yearly totally over the last three years, the NCDOT said. October, December and January are the other three months that see the highest number of animal-related crashes.

The most crashes came in the evening between 5 p.m. and midnight, with 50 percent of the overall total. In addition to being the time when deer are more likely to be moving about and crossing roads, it is when decreased driver visibility makes it more difficult to see the animals on or near roadways, according to the NCDOT.

The NCDOT offered some tips for drivers 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;
  • Always wear your seat belt. Most people injured in deer-vehicle crashes were not wearing their seat belt;
  • Statistics indicate most deer-vehicle crashes occur in areas where deer are more likely to travel, such as near bridges or overpasses, railroad tracks, streams and ditches;
  • Drive with high beams on when possible, and watch for eyes reflecting in the headlights;
  • Remember that deer often travel in groups, so do not assume that if you see one deer cross the road in front of you, there won’t be others following;
  • 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 could also become involved in the crash;
  • Do not swerve to avoid a collision with deer. This could cause you to lose control of your vehicle, and flipping it over, veering it into oncoming traffic or overcorrecting and running off the road, causing a more serious crash;
  • Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles 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.

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