RALEIGH, N.C. — Deer crashes are on the rise in North Carolina and the problem is expected to get worse as 2004 shapes up to be the worst on record.
Last year, there were more than 15,000 deer-related crashes across the state. Wake County topped the list with 919 deer-related crashes.
The wrecks are bad news for animals, cars and drivers, whose cars end up at repair shops.
"The overwhelming majority of our customers tell me they saw the deer before they hit them and they thought the deer would move or evade. And some of them run across the road, others freeze," said Todd McGowan, a body shop manager.
McGowan said this is his busiest year. Fifty came in last month, and the November damage was deep.
"Last month we had about 15 cars that were actually total losses, couldn't be repaired, because there was so much damage from a deer hit," said McGowan who added that the average repair bill for a deer wreck runs between $2,500 and $3,000.
McGowan said he sees the trend growing.
"We tend to notice the general trend that it increases each year," said McGowan, whose shop is in Wake Forest near the new Highway 98 bypass in a deer habitat. "This year it seems to be an especially big year for the deer hits and the more suburbs we have in the rural areas the more deer hits we get every year."
Researchers and the body shop say gadgets don't work as a way to protect motorists.
"Some people have tied ribbons on their car, some people put on whistles," McGowan said. "We fix cars with all of those items on them, so unfortunately I'm not sure there's a good method other than very careful driving to avoid the deer."
About 80 percent of deer wrecks happen on two-lane rural roads between dawn and dusk.
Motorists should pay attention to deer crossing signs, which are placed where there have been several deer wrecks.