Deer Crashes Rise in NC

News Release

CHAPEL HILL — Crashes involving deer last year in North Carolina rose more than 9.4 percent from 2002, according to an analysis of N.C. motor vehicle accident records by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center.

There were a total of 15,456 reported deer-related crashes in 2003 across North Carolina. Wake County topped the list with 919 deer-related crashes. Other counties with high rates include Duplin, Rockingham, Guilford and Johnston. Graham and Jackson counties witnessed the least amount of deer-related crashes with only 2 recorded for each county in 2003.

Of the total reported automobile crashes in North Carolina in 2003, deer were cited as a factor in 6.6 percent, up from 6.3 percent in 2002.

"While a crash involving a deer can happen at any time, drivers should be particularly careful both in the early morning hours and the early evening hours," said Dr. Doug Robertson, director of the Highway Safety Research Center. "Almost 80 percent of deer-related crashes in 2003 occurred between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m."

White-tailed deer can be seen on the move around North Carolina roadways at any time of the year. Yet 50 percent of all deer-related crashes in North Carolina occurred during the months of October, November and December. Deer are particularly restless and agitated during these months due to both mating season and hunting season.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in the year 2000, there were approximately 247,000 reported crashes that involved a motor vehicle hitting an animal on the roadway. Of these crashes, 86.9 percent involved a collision with a deer. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 2001 and 2002, there were 26,647 persons in the United States who received nonfatal injuries in animal-related crashes and were treated in hospital emergency departments. Annually in the United States, estimates from NHTSA indicate that approximately 200 human fatalities result from crashes involving animals.

The Highway Safety Research Center offers the following tips for lowering your 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 your seat belt! It's your best protection from injuries in the event of a crash.
  • Watch for eyes reflecting in your 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 your chances of avoiding a crash.
  • Remember that deer travel in herds. If you see one deer cross 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 that you 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.

Figures reflect the total number of reported deer-related crashes. There is evidence that a great many more of these crashes occur than are reported to law enforcement agencies. The full report containing source information and data for all North Carolina counties is available at

Highway Safety Research Center Contact: Katy Jones, (919) 843-7007

News Services Contact: David Williamson, (919) 962-8596

Media Contacts

Caroline Dickson

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