LAURINBURG – With cooler weather, hunting season and shorter days North Carolina Department of Transportation and local law enforcement are reminding drivers to beware of deer on the move.
According to the NC DOT, there were nearly 18,000 crashes in the state last year most involving deer. There were 54,000 animal related wrecks in the last three years with 14 people killed and more than 3,000 injured. The collisions resulted in $136 million in property damage.
Wake County led the state with 730 crashes in 2016 while Scotland County saw 148 deer-related accidents during the same period, with one reported fatility, according to 1st Sgt. J.D. Wilson with the Highway Patrol.
In September 2016, Clifton Taylor Jr., 21, was killed in collision with a deer on Barnes Bridge Road. Taylor was returning home on Barnes Bridge Road near the South Carolina state line he collided with a deer, crossed the center line, lost control of the car and hit a tree.
Scotland County EMS frequently responds to deer related accidents especially along US 74 and US 501, according to Roylin Hammond, EMS director.
Hammond had his own encounter with a deer while driving ambulances for Chapel Hill a few years ago.
He was transporting a patient at 3 a.m. when a deer ran into the road and slammed into the rear quarter panel of the ambulance.
“The only way I knew anything about it was that I saw him in the rearview mirror,” Hammond said. “I kept going because we had a patient and there was no damage to the ambulance, and when I came back along later he was dead in the ditch. The accident had broken his neck.”
Hammond’s encounter was typical because deer related accidents tend to happen more often during certain times of day, according to Wilson.
“I’ve noticed that the majority of the accidents happened between the hours of 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. and from 6 p.m. to midnight,” Wilson said.
These are the hours when deer are on the move to and from feeding grounds and bedding areas.
Swain and Graham Counties in the western part of the state had 10 and eight wrecks each. The reason comes down to numbers, according to the DOT. Western counties are less densely populated meaning fewer drivers and fewer wrecks.
The DOT has issued the following recommendations for drivers to protect themselves:
− Slow down in posted deer crossing areas and heavily wooded areas, especially during the late afternoon or early evening.
− Don’t swerve to avoid a collision with deer as this could cause you to lose control or veer into oncoming traffic.
− Deer often travel in groups, so assume if one crosses the road in front of you there may be others following.
Wilson shared a few further recommendations based on her experience with deer related crashes. She warned drivers not to assume that the deer see them simply because the deer is looking in thier direction. The deer are often dazed by oncoming headlights. Switching headlights from dim to bright can startle deer as well causing them to run into traffic.
Wilson also warned drivers not to blow a horn at the deer because the sound often startles them and causes them to stop moving in the middle of crossing or jump into the roadway.
Slowing down when approaching deer can also lessen the damage from a possible collision.
Though drivers can take precautions, encounter with deer are sometimes inevitable in rural areas.
“They’re everywhere. We have a significant deer population, so we’re going to have accidents. It’s just going to happen, unfortunately.” Hammond said.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169