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The issue of deer-vehicle crashes has remained consistent over the past several years. Recent studies have attempted to focus on deer habits with a particular emphasis on location since these deer-related incidents tend to occur in rural areas. There are additional practical considerations that drivers should keep in mind in order to reduce these type of crashes involving deer. These considerations primarily involve reduced speeds, attention to locale, and methods for avoiding crashes if a deer is encountered.

Deer-related Crashes in North Carolina Increase in the Fall
The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center: Motor vehicle crashes involving deer typically peak during the fall months in North Carolina, and the state’s most recent crash data indicate that trend continued in 2015. Last year more than half of all deer-related crashes in North Carolina happened in October, November, December and January.

“Deer-related crashes increase in the fall during prime mating season,” said David Harkey, director of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center. "Motorists should be especially cautious when driving in the early morning and early evening hours. Last year, three out of every four deer-related crashes occurred between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.”

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Deer are Causing Big Problems for Alabama Drivers
Alabama motorists are getting a costly reminder to look out for deer while driving.

State Farm, Alabama's largest auto insurer, says in a statement that there were 28,794 insurance claims connected to deer collisions from July 2015 to the end of June. The company says one in 135 Alabama drivers are likely to collide with a deer — a figure that's higher than the national odds of one in 164.

The national cost per claim average is $3,995.

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As temperatures drop, be aware of deer near roads
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(Source: WSFA 12)(Source: WSFA 12)

It's that time of year, when the temperatures drop, and the deer seem to come out of the woods; literally.  

State Trooper say the turn of the season is when they start to see an increase of crashes that involve deer in the road.

The majority of accidents involving deer tend to take place in more rural areas that are not so developed and populated. But even in areas that have been recently developed, the deer may still be nearby, and on the move.

So State Troopers say this is the time to make a plan, just in case you have to put it into action one day.

“We work a ton of crashes involving deer vs. vehicles,” said State Trooper Jesse Thornton.

Nearly 2,100 last year, to be exact. Most of them happen right about this time of the year.

“When cooler temperatures come, they become more active, and when hunting season comes you also see a more prevalence of deer as well,” Thornton said.

Thornton says now is a good time to know what to do, before you ever spot a deer in the first place.

It start with being aware of your surroundings.

“Pan around on the outskirts to see possible threats, including deer, and understand that they're animals and you can't predict what they're going to do,” Thornton said.

When you do see a deer on the side of the road, Thornton says it's a good idea to honk your horn.

“They'll hear the sound and that may deter them, from either coming out in the road, or speed them up getting out of your way in the highway, if you've got time to do that,” Thornton said.

And if it does jump out in front of you, brake hard, and don't swerve. 

“We work a lot of crashes where people won't strike the animal, but they'll end up going off the roadway, hitting a tree or overturning their vehicle,” Thornton said.

And most importantly, buckle up.

“In the event that you're involved in a collision with a deer, if you've got that seat belt on, you may prevent injury.”

Last year, accidents involving deer killed three people in Alabama. Even if no one's hurt, a deer collision can be pretty costly. According to ALFA insurance, the average cost to repair your car is about $2700. 

It's also important to remember that deer tend to travel in packs, so if you see one, there are likely several more nearby.

Copyright 2015 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

Slow Down, Buckle Up and Look Out for Deer


Fall Months are Most Dangerous for Deer-related Crashes in NC

Advice for North Carolina Drivers: Slow Down, Buckle Up and Look Out for Deer

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (Oct. 8, 2014) — Motor vehicle crashes involving deer historically peak during the fall months in North Carolina, and the state’s most recent crash data shows no exception to that rule. In 2013, nearly half of all deer-related crashes in North Carolina occurred in the months of October, November and December.


“Deer on or near the roadways is a major concern for motorists in North Carolina at this time of year," said David Harkey, director of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC). "A crash can happen at any time, but drivers should be particularly careful in the early morning and early evening hours. Nearly 80 percent of deer-related crashes in 2013 occurred between 6 at night and 8 in the morning.”


Further analysis of deer-motor vehicle crash data shows that, while the number of deer-related crashes in North Carolina decreased slightly over the past several years, the total number of crashes statewide in 2013 still neared 20,000. There were 19,893 deer-related crashes in 2013, compared to 19,988 in 2012.


A county-by-county comparison of the data shows that Wake County continues to have the highest number of reported deer-related crashes, with 1,203 in 2013. Other counties with high incidences of deer crashes in 2013 include Guilford (649), Pitt (504), Randolph (500), Mecklenburg (498), Johnston (496) and Duplin (492).


HSRC offers the following tips for lowering the risk of a crash with a deer:

  • Slow down. In areas with a large deer population, or where there are deer warning signs, drivers should reduce their speed.
  • Always wear a seat belt. It offers the best protection from injuries in the event of a crash.
  • Watch for eyes reflecting from headlights. Try to look far down the road and scan the roadsides, especially when driving through field edges, heavily wooded areas or posted deer crossing areas. The sooner you see a deer on or approaching a road, the better the chances of avoiding a crash.
  • Remember that deer travel in herds. If one deer crosses the road in front of you, don't assume that all is clear. Deer herds can be fairly large, and the animals often move one right behind the other.
  • Do not place confidence in "deer whistles" or other "ultra-sonic" devices that claim to prevent deer collisions.
  • Maintain control of your vehicle. It is important to not lose control of your vehicle or veer into the path of an oncoming vehicle to avoid contact with an animal. Loss of control usually results in a more serious crash.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol advises drivers who are in a crash with a deer, or any large animal, to avoid putting themselves in further danger by attempting to remove the animal carcass. Motorists are advised to pull over to a safe location off the roadway and dial 911 or *HP for help.


About UNC Highway Safety Research Center

The mission of the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC) is to improve the safety, sustainability and efficiency of all surface transportation modes through a balanced, interdisciplinary program of research, evaluation, and information dissemination. For more than 45 years, HSRC has been a leading research institute that has helped shape the field of transportation safety. For more information, visit www.hsrc.unc.edu.

Deer - Vehicle Collisions in Alabama

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Researchers at UA and AU Team Up to Study Vehicle-Deer Strikes
Researchers from The University of Alabama and Auburn University recently released study results that focus on the role of wildlife habitat and its influence on deer-vehicle crashes.

The study began with the analysis of deer habitats in an attempt to find practical ways of mitigating deer-vehicle crashes in Alabama. Other factors taken into consideration included the time of day, month and location. The goal of the study was to help save lives and reduce injuries that result from the large number of deer-vehicle crashes in Alabama.

This was a major research effort that teamed UA with the Center for Forest Sustainability at Auburn University. Others involved in the study include the East-Berryman Institute of Mississippi State University, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, the Alabama Bureau of County Transportation, the Alabama Motor Vehicle Division and the Alabama Department of Transportation. The team also utilized the U.S. Agriculture and Population census reports. The following are some of the major findings of the research:

  • Forty percent of all deer crashes occur on county roads.
  • The share of pasture land to woodland is significant, with an increase in pasture land proportion generally leading to an increase in deer strikes.
  • An increase in hunting license sales and bag limits for deer without antlers are directly related to a reduction in the deer strikes the following year.
  • Counties that are part of metropolitan statistical areas have a higher probability of a deer-vehicle crash. This is because the protection of deer in urban areas builds up their proximity with the larger driving volume in these areas.
  • More than 40 percent of deer-vehicle strikes occur during the three month deer season, which occurs during November through January. This is probably caused by a combination of their being forced by hunters to move around at this time, and the behavior changes during the mating season.
  • There is a significant shift in the time of day that deer crashes take place, from the daylight and dawn hours in the summer to the dusk and night time hours during the deer season. Drivers need to be particularly aware of the increased presence of deer at times when they are least visible. Of course, there is much more dusk and dark time driving in the late autumn as well due to daylight saving time.

The following are additional practical considerations to avoid deer-vehicle crashes:

  • Beware of rural roads that were repaved or had shoulder work done in the fall of the year. Quite often rye grass will be planted to stabilize the loose soil and this food source will attract the deer especially at dusk and at night.
  • Reduce speed at night. Example: Montana, which from 1995 to 1999 had a daytime speed limit of “reasonable and prudent” for vehicles other than trucks imposed a nighttime 65 MPH speed limit on Interstates and 55 MPH on other roads mainly because of the number of animals that wander out onto the roadways in that mostly rural state, and the fact that above-65 MPH driving “outruns the headlights,” i.e., it is impossible to stop in time or to otherwise safely avoid an animal once it is seen.
  • Watch especially before and after bridges where the ground is generally be more fertile (e.g., supporting a concentration of oak trees around streams), and water may be available.
  • If deer are spotted on the side of the road, brake immediately to get to a speed where you can easily maneuver or stop. Deer are rarely alone and herds of a dozen are common in Alabama. In prolonged segments where rye has been planted on the roadside, literally hundreds of deer have been observed at night. When one deer is seen the chance of seeing another increases dramatically.
  • Consider maneuvering to avoid the deer as opposed to hard braking. This is a tradeoff that must consider other traffic conditions. For example, it may not be wise to brake hard if someone is riding closely behind, or to make a hard steering maneuver when there is traffic in adjoining lanes. Do not let your mind wander or be distracted … be constantly thinking about what you will do if a deer suddenly appears in the middle of the road.
  • If someone is following you too closely, just gradually slow down to let the pass, or if that is impossible to maintain a speed where their distance is adequate for them to brake without hitting you should you encounter an emergency. (In some cases this might mean your pulling off the roadway to allow an aggressive driver to pass – that is better than a whiplash.)
  • This leads to the conclusion that there may be times when avoidance and braking are not the safest thing to do (e.g., in heavy traffic). Since hitting a deer might be either unavoidable or the safest thing to do under certain circumstances, other countermeasures can mitigate the crash: fasten seatbelts (loss of control is highly probable), avoid excessive speed, stay totally alert and free from distractions since the sooner you see the deer the more apt you will be to take the necessary actions to mitigate the crash.

The results of this research were presented in a paper at the Urban/Rural Interfaces Conference in Atlanta on March 16, 2005.

The participants in this research included:

  • Dr. Jim Armstrong, associate professor and extension wildlife specialist, from Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.
  • Dr. Anwar Hussain was a Post-Doctoral fellow at the time of the research; he is now on the faculty of Mississippi State University.
  • Dr. David Brown is professor of computer science and a Research Associate in the University of Alabama Center for Advanced Public Safety.