As fall sets in and winter approaches, the N.C. Department of Transportation and local officials warn Yadkinites to be cautious on the roadways, keeping an eye out for deer.
According to the NCDOT, there were more than 19,500 animal-related crashes reported in each of the last three years in North Carolina. Ninety percent of those involved deer. Since 2008, these incidents resulted in 3,453 injuries to people, of which 17 were fatal. Property damage amounted to nearly $136 million.
“Deer are constantly on the move this time of year, especially in densely populated areas,” said NCDOT Director of Mobility and Safety Kevin Lacy. “Drivers need to be alert at all times.”
“Be vigilent of the fact that they’re moving a lot more around this time of year,” said Yadkinville Police Chief Tim Parks.
According to the NCDOT, the majority of deer-vehicle collisions occur between the months of October and December, when deer activity increases due to mating and hunting seasons. While deer are out on the roads throughout the day, crashes are most common when deer movement increases during the hours of 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. Crashes are more common during this time frame also due to limited lighting, making it more difficult for motorists to see them.
“Drive with your headlights on bright if other cars aren’t coming,” Parks suggested. “Anytime you’re going into areas with fields on both sides, that’s an area where you need to be alert.”
An alert driver can often spot the deer in time to safely avoid a collision. But Lacy stresses, “If you can’t avoid a deer, it is better to hit it than to lose control of your vehicle and cause a bigger accident.”
Between 2008 and 2010, there were 60,045 animal-related collisions reported throughout North Carolina. The top five counties for such collisions in 2010 were Wake (1,051), Pitt (713), Duplin (646), Guilford (635) and Randolph (534).
Yadkin County ranked 49th, with 487 collisions reported from 2008-10. In 2010, Yadkin ranked 55th with 146 collisions reported.
Surry and Wilkes counties ranked 40th and 51st, respectively, for 2008-2010. Throughout that time frame, 701 collisions were reported for Surry and 457 for Wilkes. In 2010, Surry and Wilkes placed 35th and 54th in rankings, with collisions totaling 247 for Surry and 148 for Wilkes.
NCDOT offers the following suggestions for motorists to avoid being in a 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.
The North Carolina Animal-Related Crashes 2008–2010 data and county rankings can be found at http://www.ncdot.org/doh/preconstruct/traffic/Safety/crashdata/data/animal.pdf. NCDOT also has animal crash maps available by county at http://www.ncdot.org/doh/preconstruct/traffic/Safety/crashmaps/Animal_Maps.html. A county spreadsheet will load with links to the maps. The crashes are coded by the quarter of the year they occurred.