Between 2018 and 2020 there were 969 vehicle crashes involving animals in Wayne County that injured 33 people and did more than $2.7 million in damage.
However, last year the frequency of such crashes decreased across the state, according to figures kept by the N.C. Department of Transportation Traffic Safety Unit.
The number of such crashes totaled 18,607 last year — an 8.5% decrease from 2019, according to the Traffic Safety Unit, which compiles an “Animal Related Crashes” report each year.
Wayne County was an exception where the number grew. It had 273 crashes in 2018; 307 in 2019; and 389 in 2020 to rank 16th in the state during that period.
Statewide during that same period, there were 56,942 such crashes — usually involving deer and often occurring in the twilight hours during the fall — that claimed six lives, injured 2,698 and did $160.5 million in damages.
About 7% of all vehicle crashes in the state involve animal strikes.
The overall decline is attributed partially to an overall drop in highway travel last year during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decrease also indicates that ongoing safety messages for reducing one’s risks of being involved in a deer collision are having an impact, said Matthew Cowhig, the DOT engineer who compiles the report.
“Almost half of these animal-related crashes are occurring between October and December and at night, which is when people should be especially vigilant,” Cowhig said.
About half of the 56,942 crashes occurred over those three months — 7,934 in October (13.9%); 12,906 in November (22.7%) and 7,840 in December (13.2%). That is the time the deer are in rut, and it is deer-hunting season too.
Early morning and late afternoon into early evening are when more than half of the crashes happened — 22% between 5 and 7 a.m. and 39% between 6 and 10 p.m.
The report does not include the areas of the county where the crashes occurred.
However, the crashes are not limited to rural areas. Several years ago a deer and car collided on East Ash Street near Stoney Creek Park.
Also, deer often have been seen along Stoney Creek Parkway and in a field off Elm Street near Stoney Creek Park.
Wake County had the highest number of animal crashes, 2,750 for the three-year period from 2018-2020, according to the DOT report.
For the past eight years Wake County has led the state in the animal report because of its large geographic size and its fast residential growth, according to the DOT report.
Housing subdivisions in the county are sprouting up across once-rural areas where deer used to be able to roam without encountering much highway traffic.
The top 10 counties had a combined 15,737 animal crashes over the last three years causing a nearly combined $44 million in damage, 719 injuries and three deaths.
The top 10 counties in animal crashes for that period are:
1. Wake County — 2,570 (one fatality and 131 injuries.)
2. Pitt County — 1,712 (80 injuries)
3. Guilford County — 1,707 (118 injuries)
4. Union County — 1,493 (51 injuries)
5. Randolph County -1,467 (two fatalities, 53 injuries)
6. Duplin County — 1,397 (41 injuries)
7. Columbus County — 1,379 (47 injuries)
8. Mecklenburg County — 1,361 (105 injuries)
9. Brunswick County — 1,344 (46 injuries)
10. Robeson County — 1,307 (47 injuries)
Gates, Bertie and Rutherford counties reported one fatality each.
Here are some tips regarding animal (usually deer) crashes:
• Always maintain a safe amount of distance between your vehicle and others, especially at night. If the vehicle ahead of you hits a deer, you could also become involved in the crash.
• Slow down in areas posted with deer crossing signs and in heavily wooded areas, especially during the late afternoon and evening.
• Most deer-vehicle crashes occur where deer are more likely to travel, near bridges or overpasses, railroad tracks, streams and ditches.
• Drive with high beams on when possible and watch for deer eyes reflecting in the headlights.
• Deer often travel in small herds, so if you see one deer near a road, be alert for others.
• If you see deer near a road, slow down and blow your horn with one long blast.
• Do not swerve to avoid a collision. This could cause you to lose control of your vehicle and cause a more serious crash.
• If your vehicle does strike a deer, do not touch the animal. A frightened and wounded deer can be dangerous or further injure itself. Get your vehicle off the road, if possible, and call 911.