NCDOT Reminds Drivers to Keep Alert for Deer on the Roads During Fall Months

Deer are on the roadways more during the fall and into early winter due to the hunting and mating seasons

NCDOT Reminds Drivers to Keep Alert for Deer on the Roads During Fall Months
Image: Pixabay
October 20, 2017

Autumn in North Carolina brings more than cooler temperatures and falling leaves. This is also the season when more deer appear along state roadways, and in turn, there is a greater chance of a collision with a deer.

The number of animal-vehicle collisions in North Carolina in 2016 was 17,901, just 136 fewer than in 2015.

54,000 collisions in three years

That put the total over the past three years at close to 54,000 collisions, a great majority being with deer. The North Carolina Department of Transportation's (NCDOT) latest study on animal collisions shows those crashes killed 14 people, seriously injured 51 others, resulted in 3,356 overall injuries, and caused nearly $136 million in property damage.

"This time of year, it is especially important for all of us to watch for deer," said North Carolina Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon.

Wake County Leads to Pack

For the 14th year in a row, Wake County led the state in 2016 in the number of animal-related crashes with 730, which was a drop of more than 100 from 2015. But it was also 180 more crashes than the runner-up, Pitt County. And 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.

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 again had the lowest number of animal-related crashes in 2016. Graham County had just eight, while Swain County had 10.

When to pay extra attention

Deer are on the roadways more during the fall and into early winter due to the hunting and mating seasons. They also travel more during times when it is tougher to see them, at dawn and at dusk. The end of daylight saving time, which occurs at 2 am on Sunday, November 5, contributes to drivers being on the road more during reduced daylight.

The largest number of animal-related crashes in 2016 came between 5 pm and midnight, when more than half of all the collisions took place. 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.

Tips for avoiding collisions

NCDOT offers the following tips for motorists to avoid a deer-vehicle collision:

  • 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 seatbelt. Most people injured in deer-vehicle crashes were not wearing their seatbelt;
  • 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 go near 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.