NC Deer-related Crashes Increase in the Fall

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

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (October 18, 2021) — North Carolina motor vehicle crashes involving deer typically peak during the fall months, and the state’s most recent crash data indicate that trend continued in 2020. Last year more than half of all deer-related crashes in N.C. happened in October, November, and December, with almost a quarter occurring in November alone.

“Deer-related crashes increase in the fall during prime mating season,” said Randa Radwan, director of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center. “North Carolina motorists should be especially careful in the early morning and early evening hours. In 2020, more than four out of five deer-related crashes occurred between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.” Also, in 2020, 10,416 of the deer-related crashes, about two thirds of the total, occurred when the light conditions were dark with no streetlights.

Data show the number of N.C. deer-related crashes in 2020 fell by approximately 10 percent to 16,640 (two of which included fatalities and 582 of which included reported injuries), compared with 18,254 in 2019 (one of which included a fatality and 693 of which included reported injuries).

A county-by-county comparison of the data shows that Wake County continues to have the highest number of reported deer-related crashes, with 740 in 2020. Other leading counties with high numbers of deer crashes in 2020 include Pitt (580), Guilford (541), Randolph (519), Union (421), Columbus (394), Duplin (383), Rockingham (373), and Mecklenburg (368).

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 lower their speeds 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 large, and the animals often move one right behind the other.
  • Avoid relying on “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 keeping 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 more than 50 years, HSRC has been a leading research institute that has helped shape the field of transportation safety. For more information, visit