Be aware, be prepared

Published 3:51 am Sunday, September 30, 2007

By Staff
Autumn tends to remind folks about harvests, pumpkins and sweater weather.
But in North Carolina, folks should keep something else in mind when it comes to autumn.
During October and November of last year, according to the North Carolina Highway Patrol, more than 40 percent of all vehicle-related collisions in North Carolina were animal-related. Most of those collisions involved deer, the Highway Patrol reports.
Eastern North Carolina residents are no strangers to their vehicles colliding with deer, not to mention bears and other large animals. Some such collisions result in death to motorists. Many such collisions result in damage, ranging from slight to severe, to vehicles. Some collisions kill or injure animals.
One can’t put a price on life, but collisions between vehicles and animals cost plenty. Damaged vehicles must be replaced or fixed. Automobile insurance premiums increase. A motorist injured in a collision with a deer may incur medical-related expenses and see his or her pay reduced because he or she missed work for a time.
Although the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports there are no good national statistics on collisions between vehicles and animals such as deer, moose and elk, it estimates collision-related damage in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
According to a study by State Farm in 2005, about 1.5 million vehicles in the United States collide with deer each year, resulting in an average of 150 deaths and causing an estimated $1.1 billion in vehicle damages.
The risk of motorists colliding with a deer increases during hunting season. That’s when deer are more on the move than usual. Deer, when a driver least expects it, will dart from the woods or a field onto a road. And anyone who has been driving in eastern North Carolina for almost any length of time knows that collisions with deer are most likely to occur during the late evening and early morning hours.
Motorists can’t rely on deer or other animals to make efforts to avoid collisions with vehicles. It’s up to motorists to make efforts to avoid collisions with animals. Motorists, not to mention others in a vehicle, can help reduce collision rates by carefully scanning the road ahead and observing speed limits and deer-crossing signs. The Highway Patrol advises motorists to never swerve to avoid an animal in a roadway because doing so may cause a more severe collision.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission advises motorists not to place their confidence in “deer whistles” or other “ultra-sonic devices” claiming to prevent collisions with deer.
The commission also offers suggestions to help motorists avoid collisions with deer. The commission recommends motorists drive with headlights on high beam when possible and watch for deer eyes reflecting in headlights, especially at field edges or posted deer crossing areas. If a deer is seen, immediately reduce speed, even though the deer may be a considerable distance from the road. The headlights may cause deer to panic and run at any time. If a deer crosses the road in front of the vehicle, don’t assume that all is clear. Deer often travel in herds, and one will often cross right behind the other.
Following the advice offered by the Highway Patrol and Wildlife Resources Commission just may keep you from becoming another statistic in the next report of collisions involving vehicles and deer.