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Watch Out for Deer on Roadways, Animal-Related Crashes Cause $1.4M in Damages in High Country from 2011-2013

Animal-related crashes, which 90 percent of the time involve deer, have caused more than $1 million worth of damage in Watauga, Avery and Ashe counties in the past three years.

By Jesse Wood

Oct. 14, 2014. With the onset of winter on its way, the N.C. Department of Transportation has issued a public service announcement warning drivers of increasing chances to crash into deer across the state.

A NCDOT study, updated this past summer, notes that 2013 marked the fourth-straight year of more than 20,000 animal related crashes in North Carolina. In the past three years, animal related crashes, 90 percent of which involved deer, claimed 18 lives and injured more than 3,400 drivers and passengers – not to mention causing more than $149 million in damages.

“Drivers need to be careful on the roads all the time, but even more so over the next few months,” NCDOT Director of Mobility and Safety Kevin Lacy said in a statement.  “Increased deer activity and decreasing daylight hours mean vigilance by motorists needs to increase for their own safety and the safety of others.”

Wake County led – as it has for the past 11 years – all 100 counties in North Carolina with 1,135 animal-related crashes in 2013. Following Wake County was Guildford County with 620; Duplin and Pitt counties with 539; and Randolph, which rounded out the top five, with 499. All of those figures were just for 2013.

The NCDOT study noted that counties in Western North Carolina report far fewer animal-related crashes because of fewer drivers and road mileage. Swain, Graham and Jackson counties had a combined 25 animal-related crashes.

As for counties in the High Country, Watauga ranks 70th among counties with 253 animal-related crashes from 2011 to 2013. Avery County ranks 88th in the state with 113 animal-related crashes in the past three years, and Ashe County ranks 77th in the state with 186 such crashes from 2011 to 2013.

For the past three years, estimated damages from the crashes have been approximately $272,000 for Avery; $582,000 for Ashe; and $570,000 for Watauga. This is compared to Wake County drivers that saw more than $8.3 million worth of damage from animal-related crashes. Drivers in Guilford, Duplin and Pitt counties saw more than $4 million worth of damage from such crashes per county from 2011 to 2013.

Because of hunting and mating seasons through fall and into winter, deer are on the roads more than usual.

“They also travel more at dawn and as it grows dark in the evenings, with the largest number of crashes coming between 5 and 8 a.m., and 6 and 10 p.m. In addition to more deer moving about and crossing roads at those times, decreased driver visibility makes it more difficult to see animals on or near roadways,” a release from the NCDOT reads.

See tips from NCDOT on how motorists can help their chances at avoid encountering a deer on the roads:

  • 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 through, 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 a deer crosses the road, 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 may 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, 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, 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 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.