Wildlife on roadways is additional fall driving hazard
October and November are the two busiest months for vehicle-wildlife collisions, statewide and nationally. With more wildlife crossing roads all over the state, Oregon State Police (OSP), the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), and the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) urge motorists to be on alert.
According to statistics, wildlife-involved traffic collisions have been on the rise across Oregon. In 2013 ODOT received reports of 1,274 such crashes, similar to the 1,283 crashes reported in 2012 and up from 1,199 reported in 2011. Overall, reports are approximately 24 percent higher than in 2008 (974 reported crashes). 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 the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Between September 27 and October 1, 2014, OSP troopers responded to four vehicle-wildlife crashes.
Over the past 10 years, more than a third of the total reported vehicle-wildlife crashes occurred between September through November. The deadliest encounters have taken place in Josephine and Deschutes counties, but no county in the state is untouched by these incidents. Those with the highest total crashes reported are Deschutes, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath and Lane Counties.
During this season, OSP, ODOT, OTE 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.
* During the next few months there will be fewer daylight hours and visibility will be challenged by darkness and winter weather conditions.
* Be attentive at all times, but especially sunset to sunrise.
* When driving in areas that have special signs indicating the possible presence of animals/wildlife, please use extra caution because these signs are posted for a reason.
* 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 such as squirrels, 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 and losing control of your vehicle is a larger concern.
* Always wear your safety belt, as even the slightest collision could result in serious injuries.
ODOT has produced a short video showing elk and deer (and other animals) using an underpass on Hwy. 97, which has helped improve safety in a high-incident area. The video is available for viewing online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSJGRs5KRP8&feature=youtu.be.