Hazards on hoof: It’s season for deer collisions

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
It’s officially deer season ó and that means deer are darting out from fields and woodlands, wreaking havoc on motorists.
The number of deer vs. motorist accidents has already spiked.
“It’s cyclical; it happens every year, October through December,” N.C. Highway Patrol First Sgt. B.E. Hower said. “We can relax in January.”
In Hower’s district, which includes Rowan and Davie counties, there’s an average of 50 to 100 animal vs. vehicle collisions for the three-month period.
That, coincidentally, is the same time as the annual deer season, extending from bow and black powder through gun season.
The rest of the year, the district has around 10 collisions per month involving animals.
Although the patrol animal code doesn’t differentiate between deer, dogs, horses or other livestock, Hower said deer make up the majority.
While deer cause thousands of dollars in vehicle damage, most of the accidents don’t result in serious injury.
And in many instances, drivers go home or on to work before calling and reporting the incident.
“It’s always good to call in,” Hower said. Troopers routinely investigate dozens of accidents where there is personal injury or the vehicle is not able to be driven.
Across the state, 18 fatalities have resulted from deer collisions since 2006, along with millions of dollars in property damage.
The last known fatality in a wreck involving a deer in Rowan occurred three years ago on West Innes Street, just outside Salisbury.
Gary Coble, 46, who worked in the mailroom at the Salisbury Post, was driving home around 3 a.m. on Sept. 1, 2006.
His Geo Tracker collided with a deer and overturned, killing Coble.
The N.C. Department of Transportation now issues warnings and reminders to make motorists more aware of the increased presence of deer on the roadway.
More than 15,500 animal-related crashes are reported each year, 90 percent involving deer. Statewide since 2006, the incidents have resulted in 3,236 injuries to people and nearly $126 million in property damage.
The Department of Transportation offers the following suggestions for motorists to avoid being in a deer-vehicle collision:
– Slow down in posted deer-crossing areas and heavily wooded areas, especially during late afternoon and evening.
– 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 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.