Deer-related Crashes in NC Increase in the Fall

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

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (Oct. 25, 2016) — 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.”

Further analysis of deer-motor vehicle crash data shows that, while deer-related crashes have declined as a proportion of all crashes in North Carolina over the last four years, the total number of crashes statewide in 2015 still exceeded 17,000. There were 17,637 deer-related crashes in 2015 (eight of which included a fatality and 1,284 which included reported injuries), compared with 17,422 in 2014.

A county-by-county comparison of the data shows that Wake County continues to have the highest number of reported deer-related crashes, with 895 in 2015. Other counties with high incidences of deer crashes in 2015 include Guilford (561), Mecklenburg (545), Duplin (501) Pitt (489), Columbus (420), Union (417), Randolph (402) and Forsyth (396).

The UNC Highway Safety Research Center offers the following tips for lowering the risk of a crash with a deer:

  • Always wear a seat belt. Proper restraint offers the best protection from injuries in the event of a crash.
  • Slow down. Drivers should reduce speed in areas with large deer populations, such as wooded or farmland areas, and particularly where deer warning signs are posted.
  • 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. Using high beam headlights at night when there is no approaching traffic will make it easier to spot deer.
  • 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. It is safer to hit the deer while maintaining control than hitting another vehicle.

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 50 years, HSRC has been a leading research institute that has helped shape the field of transportation safety. For more information, visit