Changing leaves are one sign of fall in North Carolina. On the other side of the spectrum: the growing number of deer on the side of the road.
Guilford and Randolph counties ranked high in the state last year in car-versus-deer wrecks. Guilford County saw 649 wrecks , ranking it second in the state. In Randolph County, 500 crashes were caused by deer, ranking the county fourth in North Carolina.
North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) work crews that clear road kill from highways and secondary roads have seen a jump in accidents during the last week.
“On Monday morning it's between 10 and 15 when you come back in after the weekend,” said Mark Rigey with NCDOT.
Rigey covers about half of Guilford County. He believes a combination of construction and an early mating season, or rut, have deer on the move.
“They're liable to jump out anywhere,” Rigey said. “I’ve seen drivers get cut up or end up with broken arms.”
Auto body shops are also seeing more cars in need of repair because of deer.
“This week has been crazy,” said Sharon Sizemore of Trull Body and Paint.
Sizemore does the paperwork at the auto body shop. She said since last Thursday she’s doing multiple estimates a day on deer-involved crashes.
Sizemore lives on Alamance Church Road and isn’t surprised by Guilford County’s large number of deer-versus-car accidents.
“There's so much farm land out in this area whether it’s the northern part of the county or the southern part,” Sizemore said.
The deer mating season will last through the fall which means it’s important to slow down at night, use high beams and honk the horn if a deer is spotted to scare it off.
The North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center reported a slight decrease in deer-and-car collisions in 2013 compared to 2012 with a total of 19,893 crashes. That’s still up significantly from the number of crashes in 2002 which the group called a record year at 14,002 crashes.
The UNC Highway Safety Research Center offers the following tips to reduce 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 your seat belt. It's your best protection from injuries in a crash.
- Watch for eyes reflecting in your headlights. Try to look far down the road and scan the roadsides, especially when driving past fields, heavily wooded areas or posted deer crossing areas. The sooner a driver sees a deer on or approaching a road, the better the 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.
- Don’t place confidence in "deer whistles" or other "ultra-sonic" devices that claim to prevent deer collisions.
- Maintain control of your vehicle. It’s critical not to lose control 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.