HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) – The increase in the number of Horry County drivers hitting deer has outpaced the area’s growth, according to a data analysis from News13. 

While Horry County’s population grew about 30% from 2010 to 2020, the number of vehicles hitting deer increased by more than 255% – cementing the area’s spot as the top spot in the state for deer-vehicle crashes, according to information from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

That hasn’t always been the case. In 2004, Horry County was the 10th highest county in the state for its number of deer-vehicles crashes. That pack was led by Charleston and Beaufort counties, respectively, from at least 2004 to 2013. Horry County surged to the top in 2015, before dropping to second place in 2016. It has topped the list every year since 2020. 

In 2004, there were 46 deer hit by vehicles in the county. That rose to 85 in 2010, and then peaked at 340 in 2019. 

Between 2004 and 2020, the number of deer-vehicle crashes in Horry County has increased by more than 600%. 

Statewide, the number of crashes decreased in 2020, when fewer drivers were on the roads due to the pandemic. The SCDNR has not yet publicly released 2021 data. 

Statewide, those crashes have increased from 1,401 in 2004 to 2,705 in 2020. 

South Carolinians had a one-in-46 chance of hitting an animal last year, according to information State Farm Insurance provided to News13. The company said that’s higher than the national rate, and that from 2020 to 2021, the number of claims from motorists colliding with animals went up by 7.2% nationwide. 

Motorists in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Texas were most likely to hit an animal.

In Horry County, subdivisions have trapped deer into small areas of the woods, forcing them to travel between areas.

“They tend to wander out into traffic, and into roadways at all crazy times of the day,” said South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Nick Pye.

Motorists are most likely to encounter deer at night or the early morning, during the mating season in the fall and when there’s a weather change. Crashes are also most common where fields meet forests. 

Pye said that vehicles tend to get more damaged, and occupants more severely hurt, when they swerve to hit a deer. He said it’s better to hit a deer than to crash into an oak or pine tree.

“Don’t make any sudden, abrasive maneuvers,” Pye said. “We want you to apply pressure on the breaks and try to slow down.”

If a driver knows there’s deer in an area, Pye recommends traveling below the speed limit in order to have a larger buffer for a reaction time. 

About 45% of crashes that involve deer happen from October to November, according to the SCDNR, which attributes the rise in collisions to growth infringing on the deer’s territory. 

The deer can bolt in front of cars due to their predator-avoidance instinct. When a driver sees a deer, the SCDNR recommends flicking headlights, pressing the horn and slowing down. If the deer are close, however, those actions might spook the deer and cause it to run across the road.

As long as a driver receives an incident report for the crash, they are allowed to eat the deer they hit. 

Horry County isn’t alone in seeing large jumps in the number of deer-involved crashes from 2004 to 2020. Others include Orangeburg County (35 to 132), York County (17 to 168), Darlington County (10 to 106), Dillon County (four to 74) and Florence County (27 to 136).

In 2004, two counties saw more than 100 deer-vehicle crashes. In 2020, that had increased to 10.

Use the database below to search by deer-vehicle crashes by county: