(WJHL) – Deer crash numbers are down in Tennessee and Virginia, but not everywhere. News Channel 11 has compiled crash data from across the region to find where drivers need to be most careful this fall.
You’ve seen them in your backyard, but hopefully, you won’t see them in your windshield: Whitetail Deer are a leading cause of animal-involved crashes within the U.S., and as they begin wandering the region for peak mating season, there are several areas that see more crashes than others.
Data for this report was sourced from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) Interactive Report System and the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security’s (TDOSH) Seasonal Dashboard.
In Virginia, totals are lower statewide. Deer-related crashes and fatalities for the year are down to 3,385 and 342 respectively in the state.
Assuming crashes stay at the same rate until New Years Day, that’s a rough total of 3,858 crashes by the end of the year. Unfortunately, November is a peak month for deer-involved crashes according to VDOT stats.
Month-to-month, those peak months are still seeing decreases. October has seen a drop of 233 and 243 crashes in the last two years. The jury is still out on November 2021, but there was a drop of 449 crashes between the Novembers of 2019 and 2020.
Below is a breakdown of Southwest Virginia deer-involved crashes within News Channel 11’s coverage area over the last three years:
- Tazewell County – 61 (2021 YTD), 80 (2020), 108 (2019)
- Washington County – 58, 77, 90
- Wise County – 21, 56, 71
- Scott County – 15, 35, 54
- Russell County – 31, 53, 48
- Smyth County – 29, 43, 56
- Buchanan County – 13, 13,16
Southwest Virginia saw a significant decrease in crashes, with Scott County staying under 50% of last year so far.
Tennessee isn’t bucking the trend either — according to TDOSH, deer crashes are down to 4,485 this year compared to 4,612 last year and 5,051 in 2019.
In Northeast Tennessee’s News Channel 11 coverage area breakdown over the last three years, there are some clear standouts for high crash totals:
- Sullivan County – 271 (2021 YTD), 250 (2020), 249 (2019)
- Washington County – 153, 157,156
- Carter County – 77, 71, 75
- Greene County – 52, 49, 47
- Hawkins County – 41, 23, 16
- Johnson County – 40, 43, 40
- Unicoi County – 24, 26, 30
Despite the regional downturn in crashes, Sullivan, Carter and Hawkins County all saw year-to-year increases so far in TDOSH data.
So how do I avoid them in the first place?
While all the data is well and good, how does this translate to the road?
Looking at TDOSH and VDOT statistics and comparing deer-involved crash totals in 2021 to the states’ respective populations, roughly sixty-six out of every 100,000 Tennesseans have hit a deer in 2021 on average, while roughly 40 out of every 100,000 Virginians did. That sixty-six in Tennessee is 65% larger than 40 found in Virginia.
If you’d prefer to remain a member of the majority who didn’t, state agencies have a few recommendations.
In Virginia, peak times for deer crashes fall between 6-9 in both the morning and evening according to 3-hour breakdowns compiled by the state.
According to Tennessee crash maps, around 83% of fatal deer-related crashes in the last four years have been during the day. Speeds and road conditions for the fatal crashes in question are not publicly available.
If you’re on the road at dawn or dusk, slowing down is your best bet, according to VDOT.
TDOT advises against swerving away from an animal if possible, as you stand a risk of flipping or driving into oncoming traffic.
If you see a deer far from the road, you still need to keep an eye out. VDOT says deer travel in groups more often than not, and when you see one you should prepare for more.