CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- More than 56 years in the auto body repair business, Dee Gainey has seen the damage a deer can cause.
“It is not uncommon for them (drivers) to come in here with $3,000 or $4,000 in damage,” he said. “If you look, you can still see a little bit of hair there. See the deer hair,” Gainey explained as he pointed to a pile of debris in his shop.
Gainey is a hunter and says deer over overpopulated in our area. And with mating season upon us, drivers will see even more roaming around.
“I think most people have this concept that deer are out in the country. They’re not anymore. They’re in the city,” he said.
“Dawn and dusk are when they’re most active and that is when you need to slow down and recognize that they may come out,” said Tom Crosby of AAA Carolinas. “If you see one or two on the side of the road, there may be three or more and as you drive along they may jump out in front of you.”
The North Carolina Department of Transportation tracks animal-related crashes. In Mecklenburg County alone in2010, there were 460 and approximately 90 percent of those involved deer. A map on the NCDOT website shows a majority of those along Interstates like I-77 and I-485. Most deer-related crashes happen between October and December.
“Nothing scares them away or makes them avoid you on the highway,” said Crosby. “Deer whistles do not work. There is nothing that really works to scare the deer off,” added Crosby.
The Highway Patrol, along with a number of Cooperative Extension Services agrees with Crosby. Studies have found the whistles do not help you avoid hitting a deer.
Back at Dee Gainey’s Body Shop in Charlotte’s South End neighborhood, Gainey says he still has customers who swear by the devices. Whether they work or not, he isn’t sure. But he does stress how dangerous deer running out into the roadway can be and encourages drivers to be aware of the problem.
“We’ve fixed cars before that went into the other lane to hit a car because of a deer,” he said. “It is a wonder quite honestly that there aren’t more people killed.”
Just last week, two teenagers died when a driver swerved to avoid hitting a deer in Stanly County.
If you’d like to check animal crashes where you live, click here. Tom Crosby says drivers should also pay attention to deer crossing signs along the highway. Those are areas where there have been a number of sightings or even crashes in the past.