NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – The fall season not only brings cooler temperatures to the state, but also an increase in wrecks involving deer. According to the NCDOT, about 90 percent of all reported animal-related crashes involved deer and 50 percent of those happened in the months of October, November and December.
A recent study by the NC Department of Transportation reported 20,181 animal-related crashes in 2012. And while that number is the lowest in the past three years, it did add to the 61, 688 wrecks involving animals since 2010. Of those crashes, NCDOT says 20 were reported as fatal, nearly 3,500 reported injuries, and there were more than $144 million in damages listed.
"This is the time of year that drivers need to be extra focused and alert," said NCDOT Director of Mobility and Safety Kevin Lacy. "We have the combination of increased deer activity and it is getting darker sooner in the evening."
Officials say the increase is because of the mating and hunting seasons. Most of the crashes that were reported happened between 5 and 8 a.m. and from 6 p.m. to midnight. According to the NCDOT, that is when more vehicles are on the road, deer movement increases, and there is limited visibility.
We also spoke with First Sergeant T.W. Pope with the NC State Highway Patrol. He says that New Hanover and Brunswick counties are also seeing an increase in animal-related collisions. Numbers from January to September of this year showed a 13 percent increase in these kinds of wrecks compared to last year. In July through September alone, 88 crashes were reported as animal-related out of a total of 1,211. Officials say there is no real way to prevent them.
"They're animals. We don't have any control over where they're going to go; where they're going to be; why they're moving the way they do. It's just where ever they tend to decide to cross the road. That's where we, you know, have to come to respond to the collision," Pope said.
• 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. 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 seat belt. Most people injured in deer-vehicle crashes were not wearing their seat belt;
• 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;
• 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.
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