Columbus County ranks as one of the animal crash capitals in North Carolina, according to data from the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Columbus County ranks ninth out of the 100 North Carolina counties for vehicle crashes involving animals from 2017-19, with a total of 1,353 animal collisions during those three years.
The county has remained in the top 11 counties when it comes to animal-involved vehicle wrecks going back to 2012, which is as far back as the study goes. The highest number of incidents in Columbus County was 485 in 2018, and the lowest was 409 in 2014.
Data for the study was obtained by “utilizing the ‘animal’ flag indicator on the North Carolina Collision Report Form. These numbers may vary from other studies due to the manner in which the data was analyzed,” according to NCDOT.
The report does not note the number of wrecks by type of animal; however, approximately 90% of all reported animal related crashes statewide involve deer, NCDOT says.
In the upper tier of the results, Columbus County is the least populated county in the top 20. Duplin County (59,350), which ranked fifth from 2017-2019 with 1,542 animal crashes, was the closest county to Columbus (56,589) in terms of population. Most of the counties listed above Columbus, such as Wake, Guilford and Mecklenburg, are some of the most populated counties in the state.
Southeastern North Carolina as a whole also was high up on the list, with Bladen County 24th, Brunswick at sixth and Robeson at 11th.
Animal crashes “soared” in N.C., according to an Oct. 12 NCDOT statement, with an increase of more than 2,300 in 2019 compared to 2018, reaching a statewide total of 20,331 animal crashes in the year.
The data comes at the start of the three worst months for such crashes – October, November and December – with NCDOT saying that half of the animal totals over the previous three years occur during those three months.
“The most crashes occur between 6 p.m. and midnight, accounting for about 45% of the overall total,” the NCDOT said. “With the end of daylight saving time at 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 1, the time shift increases the chance of deer being by roadways when drivers are traveling in the dark, especially for their evening commute.”
Sgt. Brian Ezzell of the N.C. State Highway Patrol in Columbus County said that November is the worst of the months as far as animal collisions due to hunting season, noting that there’s a “heavy” population of deer in the region.
NCDOT has some helpful tips for motorists in regard to deer-vehicle crashes:
- Although it does not decrease the risk of being in a crash, wearing a seat belt gives you a better chance of avoiding or minimizing injuries if you hit a deer or other animal.
- Always maintain a safe amount of distance between your vehicle and others, especially at night. If the vehicle ahead of you hits a deer, you could also become involved in the crash.
- Slow down in areas posted with deer crossing signs and in heavily wooded areas, especially during the late afternoon and evening.
- Most deer-vehicle crashes occur where deer are more likely to travel, near bridges or overpasses, railroad tracks, streams and ditches. Be vigilant when passing through potentially risky landscapes.
- Drive with high beams on when possible and watch for eyes reflecting in the headlights.
- Deer often travel in groups, so if you see one deer near a road, be alert that others may be around.
- If you see deer near a road, slow down and blow your horn with one long blast.
- Do not swerve to avoid a collision with deer. This could cause you to lose control of your vehicle, increasing the risk of it flipping over, veering into oncoming traffic, or overcorrecting and running off the road and causing a more serious crash.
- If your vehicle does strike a deer, do not touch the animal. A frightened and wounded deer can be dangerous or further injure itself. Get your vehicle off the road if possible and call 911.