RALEIGH – 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 over the 2018 statewide total, with the overall figure reaching 20,331 crashes.
The increase can be attributed in part to North Carolina’s continual population growth, 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 entering the three months with the highest likelihood for such crashes. October, November and December account for half of the annual total over the past three years. Deer are more present on the roadways throughout the fall and into early winter due to the hunting and mating seasons. The NCDOT Transportation Mobility and Safety Division study
shows animal-related crashes have killed five people, injured more than 2,800, and caused nearly $156.9 million in property damage over those three years.
For the 17th consecutive year, Wake County had the most animal collisions in the state with 1,023 in 2019 – an increase of 245 from the previous year and the highest total since 2013. Over the past three years, such crashes killed one person, injured 137 and caused $7.3 million in damages in the county.
Guilford County was a distant second in 2019 with 649 crashes, followed by Pitt County at 605, Randolph County at 536, and Union County at 531. Rounding out the top 10 were 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 consecutive year.
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. The end of daylight saving time at 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 1, 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 regarding 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. 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.