New UNC analysis of N.C. accident records shows growth in motor vehicle-deer crashes

CHAPEL HILL - Deer caused 5.4 percent of all reported driving accidents across the state in 1998, according to a new University of North Carolina study of N.C. motor vehicle accident records. Total crashes involving deer grew by more than 3 percent from the previous year, the analysis showed.

Such mishaps often result in extensive and expensive body damage to cars, but cause few injuries compared with other crashes, UNC Highway Safety Research Center investigators say.

"Undoubtedly these are underestimates of the number of deer-motor vehicle crashes 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 center. "Because there's less than $1,000 damage and no injuries, many accidents in which the animals played a role simply were not reported."

In 1994, police described about 8,000 automobile accidents involving deer, said Reinfurt, who conducted the research with computer analyst Eric A. Rodgman. In 1998, officers described 11,503, up from 11,129 in 1997. Complete records for 1999 are not yet available.

Some N.C. counties, especially in the mountains, had few "deer crashes" in 1998, he said. Eastern counties showed the highest rates overall. In Caswell County, for example, deer caused 176 of 478 accidents, or 37 percent.

Other counties with particularly high rates included Tyrrell, Hyde, Jones, Perquimans, Greene, Warren, Chatham, Franklin, Duplin and Washington. Those with the lowest were Graham, Jackson, New Hanover, Buncombe, Mecklenburg, Haywood, Henderson and Swain.

Fall and early winter see half of all deer crashes, which Reinfurt called "repair shops' bread and butter," researchers found. Half happened on county roads, a quarter on state roads, 17 percent on U.S. routes and only a small percentage on interstates and in towns. Almost three-fourths occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

"Only about 8 percent of these acc

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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