With the surge in holiday travel, the Colorado Department of Transportation and Colorado State Patrol are reminding motorists that Colorado’s wildlife are on the move. They are still migrating to wintering habitats, which means more wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs) on highways.
“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. “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.”
Updated data for the period from 2003 through 2012 (please see link at top of page) show WVCs were on a slight downward trend since 2006, hovering at or below 3,500 collisions per year. However, 2012 has seen those collisions rise to 4,016 for the year.
“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,” CDOT Traffic and Safety Engineer K.C. Matthews said. “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.”
Wildlife-vehicle collisions happen year round, 24/7. However, there is always an increase during migration seasons—typically November for fall and June for the spring—and the majority occur during the hours between dusk and dawn. These collisions are not only a matter of safety, but can be quite costly as well.
According to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, the insurance industry pays out nearly $1.1 billion a year in claims for all wildlife-vehicle collisions nationwide.
While wildlife near the roadsides can be present nearly anywhere in Colorado, CDOT will typically post static signs (the yellow sign with jumping deer symbol) in areas where there have been upwards of five WVCs per mile per year. Travelers this time of year will often see electronic variable message signs with wildlife warnings as well. And travelers will continue to see roadside reminders to slow down at night in specifically designated wildlife crossing, per 2010 legislation (see web site for press release background and charts on Wildlife Zones, including this: http://www.coloradodot.info/news/2012-news-releases/10-2012/wildlife-on-the-move).
Slow down. Stay alert. Wildlife are on the move!