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WATCH FOR WILDLIFE — Deer account for about 90 percent of all reported animal-related crashes in the state.

The frequency of animal-vehicle crashes climbed considerably in the latest annual report from the N.C. Department of Transportation.

Haywood County is one of the lowest ranking counties for the number of animal-vehicle crashes.

In 2019, Haywood ranked 90 out of 100 counties for the total number of animal-vehicle crashes. That was up substantially from 2018, when Haywood ranked even lower at 97 out of 100 counties.

There were 38 reported vehicle collisions with animals in Haywood County in 2019, compared to 26 the prior year.

Statewide, there were 20,331 animal-vehicle crashes in 2019 — an increase of more than 2,300 crashes compared to the prior year.

The increase can in part be attributed to the growth the state continues to have, with more drivers on the road and more development, which in turn leads to more opportunities for a dangerous encounter with vehicles.

October, November and December are the three worst months for such crashes, accounting for half of the annual total over the past three years. The most crashes occur between 6 p.m. and midnight, accounting for about 45 percent of the overall total.

Far western counties have the lowest numbers because they have the fewest drivers and roads. Urban counties account for some of the highest totals, with Wake, Mecklenberg and Guilford in the top 10.

The NCDOT study shows animal-related crashes have killed five people, injured more than 2,800 others, and caused nearly $156.9 million in property damage over those three years.

NCDOT has some helpful tips for motorists in regard to deer-vehicle crashes:

• 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.

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