Car crashes with deer in Mass. hit 20-year high

The state hasn't seen this many deer crashes since 2002.

Car crashes with deer in Massachusetts reached a 20-year high last year. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Car crashes with deer in Massachusetts hit a 20-year high in 2021, AAA said in a new report Thursday.

Last year, car crashes with deer between the months of October and December jumped to 1,656 — the highest number on record since 2002, AAA said. That’s also a nearly 20% increase from 2020, when 1,385 crashes were recorded.

Most crashes happen around sunset, which is in line with the afternoon commute. Before daylight savings time ends, most crashes happen between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., and after it ends, most crashes happen between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Drivers are especially vulnerable to collisions with deer right after daylight savings time ends, as they need to adjust to the darker commute home, AAA said.

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Changing sleep cycles after the time change can also lead to drowsy driving. According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research, losing one to two hours of sleep doubles your crash risk, and a person driving with five hours of sleep or less faces a crash risk comparable to drunk drivers.  

“Hitting a deer can have traumatic and devastating consequences and drivers need to be especially vigilant at this time of year. The best defense against deer crashes is to be prepared and alert.” Mary Maguire, a AAA Northeast spokesperson said.

Bristol County had the most deer crashes last year, which is unsurprising given that seven out of the top 13 towns with the most deer crashes were in Bristol County.

Middlesex County, which holds two of the top towns for deer crashes, was second.

Massachusetts towns with the most deer crashes from October through December 2021:

  1. Middleborough: 33
  2. Westport: 32
  3. Taunton: 31
  4. Swansea: 22
  5. Bolton/Freetown/Plymouth (tie): 19
  6. Westford: 17
  7. Rehoboth: 16
  8. Easton/Norton/Weston (tie): 15

Massachusetts counties with the most deer crashes from October through December 2021:

  1. Bristol: 282
  2. Middlesex: 277
  3. Worcester: 261
  4. Plymouth: 230
  5. Essex: 139

AAA’s tips for avoiding car crashes with deer:

  • Scan the shoulders of the road, as deer often dash out from the shoulder or wooded areas next to the road
  • Follow the speed limit to give you more time to respond if a deer runs across the road
  • Be careful rounding curves and climbing hills where visibility is limited
  • A long blast of your horn may frighten deer away if you spot them early
  • If you see one deer, look out for others, as they rarely travel alone
  • Use your high beams along dark roadways if there is no oncoming traffic
  • If a crash is unavoidable, step firmly on the brakes, try to stay in your lane, and avoid other cars

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