CHAPEL HILL - Automobile accidents involving deer across North Carolina increased from 11,503 in 1998 to 12,233 last year, according to a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study.
Deer caused 5.6 percent of all reported N.C. driving accidents in 1999, up from 5.4 percent the previous year, the analysis of all N.C. motor vehicle crash records showed. Reported mishaps involving the fleet and flighty animals grew by 6.3 percent over the 12 months, researchers said.
"From the many anecdotal reports we've received, these figures probably are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the real number of deer-motor vehicle crashes," said Dr. Donald Reinfurt, deputy director of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center. "That's because records are generated only when police officers write narratives about crashes and include the word 'deer.' When there's less than $1,000 damage and no injuries, which often is the case, the crashes are usually not reported at all."
Reinfurt conducted the research with computer analyst Eric A. Rodgman in what has become an annual effort. The UNC center continues the computer runs as a public service since the first time they did it, they were "flabbergasted" at the results, he said. "It continues to amaze me that more than one out of 20 N.C. reportable crashes involve a deer," Reinfurt said. "In a few counties, it's a third or more."
N.C. mountain counties recorded relatively few deer crashes in 1999. Eastern counties showed the highest rates overall.
"Forty-two percent of North Carolina's deer crashes occurred down east compared to 26 percent of the state's total number of crashes happening there," Reinfurt said. "Forty-nine percent of deer crashes were in the Piedmont, but there were a lot more here because more cars are on the roads. More than 60 percent of all N.C. traffic accidents occurred in the Piedmont."