Wildlife/Vehicle collisions (WVC), primarily deer, are increasing mortality rates of our natural wildlife populations beyond predation and other environmental factors. Wildlife management practices and the lack of predation have caused more wildlife/vehicle collisions because the numbers of deer and other wildlife commonly hit on our roads and highways have been on a sharp incline since the harsh winter of 1996. The increasing necessity of our automobiles, combined with the overlap in urban areas (urban sprawl) and wildlife habitat in the U.S., has given wildlife little choice but to venture onto our roads and highways. This phenomenon has caused many issues that people are aware of but they feel that there is little that can be done. There have been other countries and states that have attempted to educate and even take steps to reduce wildlife/vehicle collisions through many different means.
British Columbia has done extensive testing with different types of signage, education and research/implementation through its Wildlife Collision Prevention Program. (http://www.wildlifeaccidents.ca) Canada and several states in the U.S. have also conducted studies using an Austrian invention, Strieter-Lite Reflectors, to deter deer and other wildlife from crossing particular sections of roads that are high traffic areas. (Grenier, p.2) Some states have even posted nighttime speed limits to increase driver reaction time and decrease collisions with wildlife. All of these methods have met with varying degrees of success. Georgia State Highway 185 in the southern part Troup county is one of the highest WVC areas in the state (Norvell, 2009). There has been little done in the way of research to determine exactly how many collisions occur each year on that particular stretch of highway, of what type of ungulate caused the WVC and is there specific areas that the WVC are occurring more than others. In this research project we will propose a study to determine where the WVCs are occurring and by what type. Then, slower speed limits will be posted and a control area will be selected to determine if lowering the speed limit along the highway in high wildlife traffic areas is effective at reducing WVC.
According to State Farm, the nation’s largest auto insurer, there were more than 1.2 million claims for damage in crashes with animals during the last half of 2007 and the first half of 2008. Most WVCs are not bad enough to injure people, but data from the federal government show that crash deaths are increasing. In 1993, 101 people died in crashes involving animals. By 2000, the number was 150, and in 2007 it was 223. The states with the largest number of total deaths are Texas with 227 deaths during 1993-2007, Wisconsin with 123, and Pennsylvania with 112 (see attached table of state-by-state deaths in crashes with animals). Analyzing monthly data on fatal crashes of passenger vehicles and animals during the past 3 years, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) researchers found patterns similar to those reported by Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDS). Depending on the year, the crash deaths occurred most frequently in October or November. “The months with the most crash deaths coincide with fall breeding season,” Anne McCartt, IIHS’s senior vice president for research, points out.
“Crashes in which people are killed are most likely to occur in rural areas and on roads with speed limits of 55 mph or higher. They’re also more likely to occur in darkness, at dusk, or at dawn.” When motorcycles are included, there’s another peak in crashes in the summer when motorcycling is more common. Riders typically make up about half of the deaths in vehicle-animal crashes each year, even though registrations of cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks outnumber motorcycles on the road 40 to 1. Safety belt use is a major factor. IIHS research from 2005 examined 147 police reports on vehicle-animal collisions in which there was a human fatality in 9 states during 2000-02. Deer were struck in 3 out of 4 of these crashes, but collisions with other animals such as cattle, horses, dogs, and a bear also led to deaths. Most of the crash deaths occurred after a motor vehicle had struck an animal and then run off the road or a motorcyclist had fallen off a bike. The study found that 60 percent of the people killed riding in vehicles weren’t using safety belts, and 65 percent of those killed riding on motorcycles weren’t wearing helmets. (Highway Data, 2008) (See Table 1) State Farm determined the likelihood of having a vehicle collision with a deer by state through their research study. (See Table 2) Wildlife Vehicle Collisions by state, State Farm:
The purpose of the study is to determine the numbers of wildlife, by type, that are struck by motor vehicles on GA State Highway 185 from South Fulton to Troup county over a 2 year period and then to implement speed changes on a measured section of the highway where wildlife collisions have been the highest (determined by the two year study) to measure the impacts of the speed limit changes on WVCs. There will be a control section of highway with a similar amount of wildlife collisions selected, with no changes made to the speed limit, for comparison. The key hypothesis of this study is:
Ho: By reducing speed limits to 50 MPH on areas of frequent wildlife/vehicle collision sites, WVCs will decrease 10% over the control section of highway with a 65 MPH speed limit. The null hypothesis of the study is:
Ha: By not reducing speed limits on areas of frequent wildlife/vehicle collision sites, WVCs will remain similar to the control section of highway with a 65 MPH speed limit.
This will be a two-part study. The first phase will be the WVC site data gathering. That phase of the study will: 1.Determine the location of the WVC (point of impact on the highway). 2.Determine the date and time of day the WVC occurred.
3.Determine what type of wildlife was struck.
The second phase of the study will be to select two sites along the highway from the previous study which have the highest frequency of WVCs, select one as the control and the other as the speed reduction site to:
1. Determine if there is a relationship between slower speeds and a decrease in WVCs.
Who: Due to the amount of different agencies involved in roadside wildlife cleanup and reporting the research will have to be a cooperative effort with several agencies. These agencies will be the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Georgia Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Troupe County Highway cleanup divisions and the Troupe county and Lake county police Departments. Locations of participants: Due to the rural nature of this highway, there will be participants located primarily over both of the impacted counties, South Fulton and Troup County in GA. Participant selection procedures: The participant selection for this study involves everyone that is involved in monitoring, cleaning and enforcing the laws along GA Highway 85 from Nunnen to Columbus. Once it is determined who actually goes out to the WVC sites to remove the animals from the roadway, their supervisors will be contacted and involved in the selection process.
Observation and Marking The best way to accurately record the location of the WVC sites along the section of highway is through the help of the cooperators. The concept is to provided cooperators with colored flags to be carried with them in their vehicles. Once they collect the road-killed wildlife they will be instructed to mark the site by placing a colored flag in the right of way and report back to us by telephone, fax, or email. Accidents that are flagged should be reported to us within 48 hours. The cooperators will record the reported location of WVCs by describing the location with reference to a nearby mile marker. Visiting the accident site, recovering the flag, and obtaining the actual location by taking a reading from a GPS will acquire the location of the WVCs. The Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) grid co-ordinates of the site will obtained using a differentially correctable Global Positioning System (GPS) unit with high spatial accuracy.