The frequency of animal-vehicle crashes climbed considerably in the latest annual report from the N.C. Department of Transportation.
There was an increase of more than 2,300 crashes in 2019 when compared to the 2018 statewide total, with the overall figure reaching 20,331 crashes.
The increase can in part be attributed to the growth the state continues to have, with more drivers on the road and more development. That pushes animals, primarily deer, which account for about 90 percent of all animal-related crashes, into more opportunities for a dangerous encounter with vehicles.
North Carolina is also entering the three worst months for such crashes with October, November and December accounting for half of the annual total over the past three years.
The NCDOT Transportation Mobility and Safety Division study shows animal-related crashes have killed five people, injured more than 2,800 others, and caused nearly $156.9 million in property damage over those three years.
For the 17th year in a row, Wake County leads the rest of the state for animal collisions with 1,023 in 2019 – an increase of 245 from the previous year and its highest total since 2013. Over the past three years, those crashes killed one person, injured 137 and caused $7.3 million in damages.
Guilford County is a distant second in the 2019 numbers at 649 crashes, followed by Pitt County at 605, Randolph County at 536 and Union County at 531. Rounding out the top 10 are Mecklenburg, Duplin, Brunswick, Rockingham and Robeson counties.
Far western counties have the lowest numbers because they have the fewest drivers and roads. Graham County recorded just five animal collisions and has the bottom spot for the fifth year in a row.
Swain, Yancey, Alleghany and Mitchell counties round out the bottom five with just 65 crashes combined.
The most crashes occur between 6 p.m. and midnight, accounting for about 45 percent of the overall total. With the end of daylight savings time at 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 1, the time shift increases the chance of deer being by roadways when drivers are traveling in the dark, especially for their evening commute.
NCDOT has some helpful tips for motorists in regard to deer-vehicle crashes:
- Although it does not decrease the risk of being in a crash, wearing a seat belt gives you a better chance of avoiding or minimizing injuries if you hit a deer or other animal.
- Always maintain a safe amount of distance between your vehicle and others, especially at night. If the vehicle ahead of you hits a deer, you could also become involved in the crash.
- Slow down in areas posted with deer crossing signs and in heavily wooded areas, especially during the late afternoon and evening.
- Most deer-vehicle crashes occur where deer are more likely to travel, near bridges or overpasses, railroad tracks, streams and ditches. Be vigilant when passing through potentially risky landscapes.
- Drive with high beams on when possible and watch for eyes reflecting in the headlights.
- Deer often travel in groups, so if you see one deer near a road, be alert that others may be around.
- If you see deer near a road, slow down and blow your horn with one long blast.
- Do not swerve to avoid a collision with deer. This could cause you to lose control of your vehicle, increasing the risk of it flipping over, veering into oncoming traffic, or overcorrecting and running off the road and causing a more serious crash.
If your vehicle does strike a deer, do not touch the animal. A frightened and wounded deer can be dangerous or further injure itself. Get your vehicle off the road if possible and call 911.