‘Tis the season for holiday travel, and as schools let out for winter break, many families will be taking to the road this year for a bit of Christmas cheer and trips to visit friends and family. But government officials are reminding Colorado drivers we aren’t the only creatures on the move this holiday season.
The Colorado Department of Transportation and Colorado State Patrol are warning those who are planning on hit the road in the next couple months about the dangers of auto collisions with migrating wildlife.
“As more people travel and make family visits a priority during the holidays, be sure to watch for wildlife,” said Captain Jeff Goodwin of the Colorado State Patrol in a DOT news announcement. “Animal-caused crashes rise during this time of the year in some parts of our state, so please be diligent and respectful of wildlife crossing, particularly where signed warnings are in place.”
Wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs) happen all year around. However, there is always a spike during animal migrating seasons—typically starting in November for the fall and ending in June for the spring. Most WVCs occur between dusk and dawn, since this is when animals are most active and visibility is poorest.
Statewide traffic data suggests that WVCs were on a slight downward trend from 2003 to 2012, with around 3,500 collisions per year. However, last year saw a rise in collisions to over 4,000.
“It’s difficult to identify exactly what’s behind the changes in collision data, as the numbers can be affected by a variety of reasons, such as changes in migration and weather,” according to CDOT Traffic and Safety Engineer K.C. Matthews. “However, it’s important to note that one year of data does not constitute a trend; we’ll see what the numbers look like this spring.”
According to CDOT, the average property damage cost of a WVC during the final half of 2010 and the first half of 2011 was $3,171 per claim, up 2.2 percent from the year before—not including the medical cost of treating injuries resulting from the impact.
Motorists are urged to pay attention to static road signs (the yellow sign with the black jumping deer symbol) since they are posted in areas where there have been in upwards of five WVCs per mile annually. Holiday travelers will also see roadside reminders on electronic variable message signs posted alongside roads that are deemed especially hazardous for wildlife and drivers alike.
Be sure to keep your holidays happy and safe this season by minding road warnings that can help you avoid a wildlife-vehicle collision. That way, you (and the wildlife) can get to your destinations in one piece.