CHAPEL HILL -- Deer cause more than 5 percent of all reportable driving accidents across the state, according to a new University of North Carolina analysis of 1997 N.C. motor vehicle accident records.
Although they cause few injuries compared with other crashes, since 1994 such deer-related mishaps are increasing at more than 10 percent a year and often result in extensive body damage to cars.
"This is without a doubt an underestimate since records are generated only when police officers write reports about crashes and include the word 'deer' in them," said Dr. Donald Reinfurt, deputy director of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center. "Many accidents in which deer played a role simply are not reported because there's less than $1,000 damage and no injury."
In 1994, police described about 8,000 automobile accidents involving deer, said Reinfurt, who conducted the research with computer analyst Eric Rodgman. In 1997, officers described 11,129. Complete records for last year are not available.
Some N.C. counties, especially in the mountains, had few "deer crashes" in 1997, he said. Eastern counties showed the most. In Hyde County, for example, deer caused two of every five, or 40 percent, of automobile accidents.
Other counties with high rates included Caswell, Tyrrell, Franklin, Jones, Greene, Bertie, Warren and Chatham. Those with the lowest were Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Buncombe, Swain and Mecklenburg.
Half of deer crashes, which Reinfurt called "repair shops' bread and butter," occurred in the last quarter of the year during fall and early winter, the researchers found. Half happened on county and local roads, a quarter on state roads and only a small percentage on U.S. routes and interstates and in towns. Almost three-fourths occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
"Only about 8 percent of these accidents caused injuries to the driver
Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill