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DOT: Be alert for deer on roads, highways

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KENLY — As daylight hours are getting shorter and deer are becoming more active, the North Carolina Department of Transportation is reminding drivers to stay alert and pay extra attention.

According to NCDOT spokesman Andrew Barksdale, the state saw 18,540 animal-related crashes in 2017, most of which involved deer. That total was 629 more than the previous year.

“Over the past three years, more than 54,000 animal-related collisions have killed 14 people, injured over 3,000 and caused nearly $141 million in property damage,” said Barksdale.

Crashes with deer were reported in every county across the state.

Wake County, with large populations of drivers and deer, consistently leads the state in animal-car collisions as it did again last year with 822 followed by Guilford County with 617, Pitt County with 550, Duplin County with 522 and Union County with 507.

Johnston County ranked No. 16 among North Carolina’s 100 counties with 326 crashes.

Graham County, in the far western part of the state, was the lowest at five crashes and Swain County, in the same area, had six. Both these counties had smaller numbers not for lack of deer, but because of the scarcity of roads and drivers.

Traditionally, November sees the highest number of animal-related crashes at nearly 22 percent of the annual total over the last three years, followed by October, December and January.

Deer are on the roads more during the fall into winter months due to the hunting and mating seasons, and they also travel more at dawn.

Barksdale said most crashes occur in the evening between 5 p.m. and midnight, accounting for 50 percent of the overall total.

“In addition to night being the time when deer are more likely to be moving across roadways, it is also when decreased driver visibility makes it far more difficult to see the animals on or near roads,” said Barksdale. “This is the time drivers need to be especially careful on the roads in regard to deer.”

Driver Safety Tips

The N.C. Department of Transportation offers the following suggestions for motorists to avoid being in a deer-vehicle crash:

• Slow down in posted deer crossing areas and heavily wooded areas, especially during the late afternoon and evening.

• Always wear your seat belt.

• Statistics indicate most deer-vehicle crashes occur in areas where deer are more likely to travel 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.

• Deer often travel in groups, so if you see one deer cross the road, others could be 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.

• 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.