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Give Wildlife A Break: How To Avoid A Collision With Wild Animals

Updated on August 5, 2013

You can encounter wildlife on the road at any time of the day in any state of the union.

Wildlife on the highway is a national issue

According to State Farm Insurance, an estimated 1.23 million deer-vehicle collisions occurred in the U.S. between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012, costing more than $4 billion in vehicle damage.

The average claim for deer-vehicle collisions between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012 was $3,305. Over the last four years, the number of deer-related claims paid out by State Farm increased 7.9 percent, while other claims involving moving vehicles declined 8.6 percent.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that deer-vehicle collisions in the U.S. cause about 200 fatalities annually.

Wildlife and cars don't mix

The combination of wildlife and vehicles is a dangerous one for all involved. According to the Utah Division of Wildlife, there may be more deer killed on Utah's highways each year than are killed by hunters. What makes this sad information even more tragic is that most of the deer killed on the highways are does and fawns, the future of the deer herds.

What's the answer? How can we reduce the number of deer and other wildlife killed on the highways?

There have been countless studies and inventions aimed at making it less likely that you will have an unpleasant encounter with deer or other wild animals. Sadly, most of the innovations have been less than successful.

One such invention, the deer whistle has been proven to be mostly ineffective. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, these whistles have been available for more than 20 years. They produce ultrasonic noise when a vehicle exceeds about 30 mph. The idea is that deer will hear the noise and be warned away.

Personally, I don't think that hearing approaching cars is the problem. I have seen deer spoked by normal level conversation from more than 200 yards away. You can't convince me that deer don't hear approaching traffic. My guess is they just don't associate the sound with danger, or don't realize how fast the danger is approaching.

Whether deer do hear the whistles or not, studies show the devices have no effect on deer behavior.

While studying wildlife management at Utah State University I was made aware of a study conducted to determine if different colored reflectors placed along the roadside would deter deer from crossing.

The data from this study indicated that the stretches of road where red and yellow reflectors were located did see a reduction in deer/car collisions. Initial data indicated that these reflectors were indeed keeping deer away from the roads.

Further review showed that the real cause for the reduction in accidents was the reaction of the humans to these reflectors. Drivers usually associate red and yellow with danger or caution. The drivers were slowing down on these stretches of road, thus reducing the number of accidents.

There in lies the answer

It would appear that the real solution to reducing wildlife/car collisions is for drivers to slow down. In our hurry to get there world how often do we put our families at risk to save a few minutes, or even seconds.

Lets take a look at some information and see if that extra five miles per hour is really worth it when you're driving where wildlife might be present.

AVERAGE STOPPING DISTANCE

MILES PER HOUR
FEET PER SECOND
BRAKING DISTANCE IN FEET
REACTION DISTANCE IN FEET
STOPPING DISTANCE IN FEET
10
15
5
22
27
15
22
11
33
44
20
29
19
44
63
25
36
30
55
85
30
44
43
66
109
35
51
59
77
136
40
59
76
88
164
45
66
97
99
196
50
73
119
110
229
55
81
144
121
265
60
88
172
132
304
65
95
202
143
345
70
103
234
154
388
75
110
268
165
433
80
117
305
176
481
85
125
345
187
535
90
132
386
198
584

At most highway speeds by the time you see a deer in your headlights you will be too close to stop in time

According to Road Trip America, the average low beam headlights will only allow you to see 160 feet. High beams will increase that distance to 350 feet, but at 65 miles per hour you will still be too close to stop in time.

But I'm in a hurry

How much time do you really save by driving faster? It may not be as much as you think and it certainly isn't worth the added risk of hitting a deer or other animal.

How much time do you really save by driving faster?

MILES PER HOUR
MINUTES TO DRIVE 10 MILES
TIME SAVED AT 5 MPH FASTER
10
58.66
 
15
40
18.66 Mins
20
30.34
9.66 Mins
25
24.44
5.9 Mins
30
20
4.44 Mins
35
17.25
2.75 Mins
40
14.91
2.34 Mins
45
13.33
1.58 Mins
50
12.05
1.28 Mins
55
10.86
1.19 Mins
60
10
51 Seconds
65
9.25
44 Seconds
70
8.54
43 Seconds
75
8
32 Seconds
80
7.52
29 Seconds
85
7.04
28 Seconds
90
6.66
22 Seconds
 
 
 

There are two kinds of drivers in Sanpete County. Those that have hit a deer and those who are going to.

In Sanpete County, where I live, the speed limit on most rural roads is 65 MPH. By driving five miles per hour slower I can increase my chances of stopping in time to avoid hitting a deer. On the seven mile drive from my work to my home the difference in elapsed time is 36 seconds.

During the winter months when I'm driving after dark I often slow down to 55 miles per hour. This makes it even less likely that I will hit a deer and the drive time is only a minute longer. Well worth the extra time spent.

Tips on how to avoid a serious accident with wildlife

According to American Family Insurance, these simple tips can help reduce the chances or severity of a deer-vehicle crash:

Fasten your seatbelt. This is an easy way to help keep you and your family safe in case of an accident.

Pay attention to deer-crossing signs. It costs money to put up these signs and they are there for a reason.

Be especially alert at dawn and dusk. These are times deer are most active.

If you see one deer, look for others. Deer typically travel in groups and in single file.

If you see a deer on the road ahead, brake firmly and safely slow your vehicle.

If a crash is unavoidable, don't swerve. Studies show the most serious crashes occur when motorists swerve to avoid a deer and hit another vehicle or object, or roll over.

If you hit a deer, contact the authorities. You may be legally required to report an accident with significant vehicle damage, depending on state laws.

Just how common are car-animal collisions?

In 2010, American Family received 32,539 claims totaling $85,499,557, an average of $2,627 per claim.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

According to a post on OutdoorChannel.com on October 12, 2012, a woman named Donna in Fargo, N.D., had an issue.

After three vehicle collisions with deer over a period of several years, all near signs alerting drivers to WATCH FOR DEER, she decided to take action. She began a letter writing campaign but received no response. Then she contacted TV stations with her complaint and suggestions. Still no help.

Her plight finally got some attention on the Y94 morning show on a hit music radio station in Fargo. She contacted the hosts, Zero, Rat and Maggie, who put her on the air. Here’s what she had to say.

“My frustration is that Minnesota and North Dakota departments of transportation would allow these deer crossings to be in such high traffic areas,” she said. “Why are we encouraging deer to cross at the Interstate? I don’t get it. That’s such a high traffic area.”

One of the DJs asked, “Are you kidding?” Donna went on.

“It seems to me that it’s so irresponsible of us to allow these deer crossing to be in areas where these deer are so likely to be struck by oncoming traffic. Wouldn’t you agree?” she asked. “You would think they would put the crossing maybe in smaller towns. Maybe like at school crossings. It would be a safer place to cross.”

Donna is then informed that the signs aren’t there to tell deer it’s safe to cross, but to alert drivers that it’s an area with high deer density. Now, it was Donna who was incredulous.

“The government put the deer crossings there,” she said, matter of factly. “They can direct the deer population anywhere they want to by moving that deer crossing sign. Why would they place it on the highway or the interstate? There are so many other places that I can think of.”

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    • brenda12lynette profile image

      brenda12lynette 4 years ago from Utah

      I just moved to Utah. I will make sure to be extra careful when driving!! Thanks for the advice!