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Officials: Watch out for deer in the road

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Local and state authorities want motorists to slow down and be cautious of deer this time of year.

Nash County had a total of 818 animal related crashes from 2016-18, injuring 39 people and costing $2 million in damages, according to a recently released report tracking animal related crashes statewide.

Spring Hope Police Chief Nathan Gant said motorists need to be more vigilant this time of year.

With daylight saving time in the rearview mirror, motorists are driving more at night and with hunting season underway, deer tend to travel more, said Bailey Police Chief Steve Boraski.

The highest number of animal-related crashes statewide occurred in November from 2016-18, accounting for 21% of the wrecks with no other month coming close.

According to the report, 6-7 a.m. and 6-9 p.m. each day are the most likely times a motorist will hit an animal.

The data used in the report doesn’t specify what type of animal was involved in each wreck, but does state that more than 90% of animal-related crashes involve deer.

In Nash County there were 362 animal-involved wrecks in 2011; the same number in 2012; 363 in 2013; 275 in 2014; 277 in 2015; 257 in 2016; 290 in 2017; and 271 in 2018, making Nash County the 24th-highest ranked county for animal collisions in the state for 2016-18.

By comparison, Wilson County ranked 35th for 2016-18, according to the report prepared by Matthew Cowhig, an engineer with the Traffic Safety Unit of the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Mobility and Safety Division.

Wake County is ranked No. 1 among North Carolina’s 100 counties each year.

When possible, motorists should drive with their high beams on and watch out for eyes reflecting in the headlights. Deer often travel in groups, so don’t assume that all is clear if one deer has already passed. And don’t swerve to avoid contact with a deer. Doing so could cause the vehicle to flip or veer into oncoming traffic, causing a more serious wreck, said state transportation spokesman Aaron Schoonmaker.

The NCDOT lists the following tips for motorists to decrease the risk of being in a deer-vehicle crash:

• Slow down in areas posted with deer crossing signs and in heavily wooded areas, especially during the late afternoon and evening.

• Always be sure to wear a seat belt.  Most people injured in deer-vehicle crashes were not wearing their seat belt. 

• Results indicate that most deer-vehicle crashes occur in areas where deer are more likely to travel, such as near bridges or overpasses, railroad tracks, streams and ditches. Therefore, be vigilant when passing through potentially risky landscapes. 

• To alert and scare an oncoming deer off the road, slow down and blow your horn with one long blast.  Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles or reflectors to deter deer. These devices have not been proven to reduce deer-vehicle crashes.

• Always maintain a safe amount of distance between your vehicle and other cars, especially at night.  If the car ahead of you hits a deer, you could also become involved in the crash. 

• If involved in a deer strike, don’t touch the animal. A frightened and wounded deer can hurt people or further injure itself. The best procedure is to get vehicles off the road if possible and call 911.

Of course, in southern Nash County, deer don’t just hang out on the side of the road. A homeowner recently heard an intruder and found a deer making itself at home, according to the Nash County Sheriff’s Office.

“Deputies couldn’t identify the unwanted guest, but indicated the intruder was possibly related to the Northside gang whose members include Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen,” the sheriff’s office posted on its Facebook page along with a photo of the culprit sitting in the hallway of a house on Frasier Road between Spring Hope and Bailey.

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