A recent study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that crashes involving deer statewide have climbed steadily in recent years.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation says 19,300 animal-related crashes were reported each of the last three years, and 90 percent of those involved deer. Since 2007, the incidents have resulted in 3,353 injuries to people, of which 17 were fatal, and nearly $127 million in property damage.
Wake County ranks near the top statewide for the most animal crashes.
Fall is when deer are most likely to dart out in front of you because they're moving around more thanks to mating and hunting seasons. Crashes are most common from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. when they're harder to see.
While your first instinct may be to swerve to avoiding hitting an animal, experts say that's often not the best thing to do.
"People need to also understand that often a worse crash occurs when a driver swerves to avoid the deer in the roadway," said NCDOT Director of Mobility and Safety Kevin Lacy in a news release. "This reaction can cause the driver to hit another car head-on or run off the road. It is better to hit the deer than to lose control of your vehicle and hit a tree or someone else head on."
NCDOT offers the following suggestions for motorists to avoid being in collision with a deer:
- Slow down in posted deer crossing areas and heavily wooded areas, especially during the late afternoon and evening.
- Statistics indicate most car-deer crashes occur near bridges or overpasses. Deer 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 the vehicle to flip or veer into oncoming traffic, causing a more serious crash. Swerving also can confuse the deer as to where to run.
- If you see a deer near or on the road, give your car horn one long blast. This sound gives the deer an audible signal to avoid.
- 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.