More than 1.5 million drivers nationwide last year collided with deer on roadways around the country, and the costs related to this growing problem total more than $1 billion each year.
On Oct. 24-25, nearly 70 researchers, administrators, engineers and ecologists from 20 states, Canada and Japan will meet in Madison, Wisconsin to present findings and set a strategic agenda for deer-vehicle crash research, funding, technology transfer and education.
Keith Knapp, a University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professor of engineering, will announce at the meeting the creation of the Deer-Vehicle Crash Information and Research Center. Tapping experts in both transportation and ecology, it will pool the resources of participating agencies-currently, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin-to coordinate previously fragmented deer-vehicle crash and countermeasures research.
“One of the reasons for the center is that we’ve been implementing countermeasures throughout the United States for decades and don’t know whether most of them even work,” he says. “In many cases, we don’t have very good data to define the significance and location of the problem.”
In Wisconsin, for example, crews collected more than 48,000 deer carcasses from roadways in 2004, but drivers reported only about 19,000 location-specific deer-vehicle collisions to the police. “This type of underreporting of deer-vehicle collisions is typical throughout the United States,” says Knapp.
Four years ago, in an attempt to reach a larger audience with more focused information, Knapp became director of the Deer-Vehicle Crash Information Clearinghouse, an organization that provides unbiased data and information related to deer-vehicle crashes and commonly implemented countermeasures, he says. Its Web site, deercrash.com, receives approximately 500 hits per day. “It was intended to help engineers and transportation people make decisions as they build roadways,” he says.
A downloadable report on the site includes information about such potentially crash-deterring measures as deer whistles, deer-crossing signs, roadway lighting, herd reduction, roadside vegetation management, roadway planning and design, and others.
“The primary objectives are to determine what we know and don’t know about countermeasures to reduce deer-vehicle collisions and to better define the problem,” says Knapp.
Conference highlights are to include presentations from Fumihiro Hara, a Japanese researcher who will discuss the deer-vehicle crash problem on Hokkaido Island; Ann Dellinger, an epidemiologist from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who will discuss non-fatal animal-crash-related injuries; Leonard Sielecki of the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation, who will discuss the Canadian province’s successful wildlife accident reporting system; and Mary Gray and Patrick Hasson of the Federal Highway Administration, who will speak about the safety and environmental considerations of deer-vehicle crashes.