As one of the fastest growing states in the country, expanded growth of many areas around North Carolina means a continued risk of a dangerous meeting between vehicles and animals on the road, primarily deer.
According to the annual N.C. Department of Transportation report on animal collisions, in 2018 there were 18,826 animal-related collisions in North Carolina. Over the past three years, those collisions have killed nine people, injured another 2,975, and caused more than $146 million in damages.
For the 16th year in a row, Wake County remains the number one county for animal collisions, with 778 crashes for 2018, just below its total in 2017. From 2016 to 2018, 2,331 animal-related crashes were reported in the county, resulting in 150 injuries and over $6.3 million in damages.
Wake County’s total for the year was 35 percent higher than Union County, which came in second place with 503 crashes. In third place was Pitt County with 486 collisions, with Columbus and Guilford counties close behind at 485 and 483 collisions, respectively.
Rounding out the top 10 for 2018 were Brunswick, Mecklenburg, Duplin, Robeson and Forsyth counties.
With Mecklenburg and Columbus counties being the exceptions, every one of these counties had a decrease in the number of reported collisions between 2017 and 2018. The total number for the state decreased by 240 overall.
Counties in the far western part of the state demonstrate much lower numbers of animal collisions due to having fewer drivers and roads.
Graham County reported the lowest number of collisions for the fourth year in a row, with only 8 in 2018. Swain, Mitchell, Haywood and Yancey counties had the next fewest, all with no more than 30 animal-related crashes last year.
Deer are more present on the roadways throughout the fall and into early winter due to the hunting and mating seasons. Unfortunately, they also tend to travel more at times when it is harder to see them, including dawn and dusk.
The most crashes occur in the evening between 5 p.m. and midnight, accounting for 50 percent of the overall total. With the end of daylight savings time at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3, the time rewind increases the chance of deer being by roadways when drivers are travelling for their morning and afternoon commutes.
Traditionally, November records the highest number of animal-related crashes at nearly 22 percent of the annual total over the last three years, followed by October, December and January.
The Department of Transportation has some helpful tips for motorists to decrease their risk of being in a deer-vehicle crash:
Slow down in areas posted with deer crossing signs and in heavily wooded areas, especially during the late afternoon and evening.
Always be sure to wear your seatbelt. Most people injured in deer-vehicle crashes were not wearing their seatbelt.
Results indicate that 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. Therefore, be vigilant when passing through potentially risky landscapes.
Drive with high beams on when possible and watch for eyes reflecting in the headlights.
Keep in mind that deer often travel in groups, so if you see one deer fly across the road there may be another not far behind!
To alert and scare an oncoming deer off the road, slow down and blow your horn with one long blast. Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles or reflectors to deter deer. These devices have not been proven to actually reduce deer-vehicle crashes.
Always maintain a safe amount of 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 increases the risk of it flipping over, veering it into oncoming traffic or overcorrecting and running off the road and/or causing a more serious crash.
Lastly, if your vehicle does strike 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.