Local governments should take measures to help drivers avoid tragic collisions with deer and other wildlife, according to a report approved today by the Public Safety Policy Committee (PSPC) at COG.
The new Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Avoidance report calls for development of a seasonal public awareness program and a driver education package that would advise motorists when to be attentive to the possibility of animals crossing roadways. The report also calls for several other recommendations, including creation of a regional clearinghouse for research pertaining to deer crashes.
"Most of the U.S. studies concerning this issue have been conducted in rural areas, and we feel that it's time for local governments to collaborate on looking at the issue in a metropolitan setting," said Penelope Gross, Public Safety Policy Committee member and a member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
Nationwide, an estimated 200 people are killed each year in vehicle collisions involving deer and other animals. While many fatal accidents are the result of direct collisions, often they occur when a driver swerves to avoid hitting an animal. Such crashes tend to peak in October through December, when deer are mating and out in larger numbers.
Reported deer-vehicle collisions have increased at least ten-fold over the last 40 years in Virginia. In Maryland, the amount of collisions increased by more than 200 percent between 1990 and 2004.
"With the increasing number of motorists using the roads and an ever-increasing deer population, the recommendations that we've outlined in this report are especially important," said Kevin Sullivan, Chair of the Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Reduction Working Group and U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services State Director for Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia. "We really need to redouble our efforts to reeducate drivers on the dangers of wildlife."
The recommendations will be shared with local jurisdictions for implementation, and an informative video has been prepared for use in public outreach and driver education.
As peak deer season approaches, motorists are advised to:
- Slow down and be attentive when driving, particularly at dusk and dawn. If you see one deer, there are likely to be others.
Apply breaks or stop when necessary to avoid hitting a deer, but never swerve out of the driving lane to miss an animal. Colliding with another vehicle or tree can cause far more damage. In general, stop -- don't swerve -- and wait until the coast is clear.
- Use the horn to scare deer away from roadways if they are nearby.
- Immediately report any deer that is killed in a vehicle collision to the game warden or other law enforcement officer in the city or county where the incident occurred.
To download a copy of the report, click here.