October is the busiest month for vehicle-wildlife collisions in Oregon. With deer and elk on the move due to breeding season and migration to winter ranges, more wildlife are crossing roads all over the state. The Oregon State Police, Oregon Department of Transportation, and Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife urge motorists to be on alert and be ready to slow down. Signs placed in particularly popular areas for wildlife crossing are one tool to help drivers avoid collisions. Being especially watchful around sunrise and sunset is another tip that can help reduce vehicle-wildlife incidents. Wildlife undercrossings are another way to help save lives. This is something the contractor will be working to include in the Hwy 20 project. During Phase 4, a 28 foot diameter culvert is planned to funnel elk and other wildlife underneath the highway in the Crystal Creek drainage.
According to statistics from ODOT’s Crash Analysis & Reporting Section, there are about 1,250 wildlife-involved traffic collisions each year in the state. In 2014, there were 1,243 reported crashes involving wildlife, resulting in two people being killed. In 2013, there were 1,274 such crashes with three fatalities, and in 2012, 1,283 crashes with three fatalities.
Officials believe the numbers are actually higher because most collisions involving wildlife result in property damage only to the involved vehicle and do not get reported to police or DMV. For example, ODOT’s southern Oregon dispatch center received 2,591 calls about dead animals on or near roads in 2014.The central Oregon dispatch center received another 2,591 calls. Combined with ODOT’s other dispatch centers, in 2014, there were 6, 629 calls reporting wildlife incidents/animals near roads – compared to the 1,243 that were reported as crashes. In 2013, the number of calls statewide was 5,842.
Klamath, Lane and Jackson counties had the highest number of reported vehicle-wildlife crashes in 2014 (112, 89 and 82 respectively), followed by Clackamas County with 71 and Deschutes with 70. The statistics prove that crashes can and do occur everywhere in the state – rural and urban settings. See county breakdown for details (PDF).
Costs to repair cars are on the rise
In a recent news release from State Farm Insurance, the latest insurance data shows that the cost of repairing your car if you are unlucky enough to hit a deer is on the rise. State Farm reports the chances of hitting a dear are one in 169 nationally (but as high as one in 44 in some areas), the same as in 2014. The national cost per claim for hitting a deer rose 6 percent to more than $4,100 from about $3,900 in 2014, State Farm says.
Take these tips for safety
During this season, OSP, ODOT and ODFW urge drivers to be aware of the possible dangers associated with animals on or near our highways. Extra vigilance is required. The following information may help reduce these incidents:
The annual deer rut season typically lasts from late October to mid-to-late November, increasing deer activity in and around roadways.
Deer and elk are also on the move due to annual migration from higher elevation summer habitats to lower elevation winter habitats.
During the next few months there will be fewer daylight hours and visibility will be challenged by darkness and winter weather conditions.
Be extra careful in areas where there is a lot of vegetation next to the road or while going around curves. Wildlife near the road may not be visible.
Remember that the presence of any type of animal/wildlife could also mean that others are nearby.
When you see an animal/wildlife near or on the roadway, reduce your speed and try to stay in your lane. Many serious crashes are the result of drivers swerving to avoid wildlife or other obstacles and they crash into another vehicle or lose control of their own vehicle.
The same advice applies for smaller wildlife like nutria or raccoons – try to stay in your lane and do not swerve for these animals. They are less dangerous to vehicles than big game animals; losing control of your vehicle is a larger concern.
Always wear your safety belt, as even the slightest collision could result in serious injuries.
Videos shows successful undercrossing in central Oregon
Peter Murphy, central Oregon public information officer for ODOT, interviews experts and reviews the wildlife undercrossing project in an updated video on You Tube, https://youtu.be/3V0VX2skvFA.
Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “Oregon Field Guide” includes a segment on central Oregon’s wildlife undercrossing and how it is saving lives – both human and animal – on Thursday, Oct. 8.