10/04/10 — Wayne is 25th in accidents with deer

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Wayne is 25th in accidents with deer

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 4, 2010 1:46 PM

It is a costly, and in some cases, deadly, scene that is played out across Wayne County and the state every day -- the deer came out of nowhere. The first one narrowly missed the car driven by Bobby Best of Mount Olive. The second struck the car and sailed over the windshield, landing in a ditch.

Best and his wife, Cecile, were lucky -- even though their 1994 Oldsmobile was a total loss. They escaped injury. Others across the county and state have not been as fortunate.

More than 19,300 animal-related crashes were reported each of the last three years in North Carolina 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.

Between 2007 and 2009, there were 58,462 animal-related collisions reported throughout North Carolina. During that period there were 845 collisions in Wayne County, resulting in 64 injuries and $1.98 million in damages. Wayne County ranked 25th in the state in 2009 with 276 crashes. It was ranked 24th in 2007 and 2008 with 280 and 289 crashes respectively.

Pitt and Duplin counties rank among the top five in the number of collisions.

Duplin was fifth last year with 542 crashes. It ranked third in 2008 with 599 and in 2007 with 552. There were 1,693 such collisions between 2007-09.

The crashes resulted in 57 injuries and $3.4 million in property damages.

Pitt County was third in 2009 with 543 collisions and recorded 1,567 between 2007-09. The collisions resulted in one fatality and 96 injuries and $3.38 million in property damages.

The other top five counties for such collisions in 2009 were Wake (1,115), Guilford (594), and Rockingham (543). Wake County has had the most animal-related crashes for the past nine years. Between 2007-09 the collisions resulted in 200 injuries and $7.3 million in damages in Wake County.

The Bests were traveling along Broadhurst Bridge Road on the way to Indian Springs Road on their way home on Sept. 9.

"Two ran out in front of us," he said. "They were running like dogs were after them. I missed the first one. I got the second one. They were extremely fast out of the woods and shot out in front of us. They came out of nowhere.

The deer landed in a ditch. Best called the Highway Patrol and asked a man who witnessed the collision to wait to talk with the trooper as well. Best said they thought the deer was dead. He was wrong.

"Before the Highway Patrol got there the deer got up, shook and walked away," Best said.

While a crash involving a deer can happen at any time, the majority happen between the months of October and December, wildlife officials say, when deer activity increases due to mating and hunting seasons.

According to the state, 13.9 percent of the collisions happen in October, 21.8 percent in November and 12.9 percent in December.

Crashes are most common during the hours of 5 p.m. until 7 a.m., when deer movement increases and darkness makes it more difficult to see them.

The Bests' accident happened about 6:30 p.m.

State law requires that a collision in which someone is injured or killed or in which damages total $1,000 be reported to law enforcement -- police inside a municipality and the Highway Patrol if it occurs in an unincorporated area.

It doesn't take much to cause $1,000 damage, said Highway Patrol Sgt. C.J. Owens. Also, in most cases when an insurance claim is filed, the insurance companies want a formal report, he said.

"The next few months it will start to pick up with the cooler weather, plus the hunting season gets started and that stirs up the animals and they move around more. We will start to see and increase in deer collisions," Owens said

To help reduce the number of wildlife-related crashes, the state Department of Transportation reminds motorists to be aware of the increased presence of deer on state roads during fall months.

"People need to also understand that often a worse crash occurs when a driver swerves to avoid the deer in the roadway," said DOT Director of Mobility and Safety Kevin Lacy. "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."

DOT 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.