Study: Deer-Related Crashes Cost $1.1Billion Yearly

NU Online News Service, Nov. 10, 2:30 p.m. EST?Nationwide, the total of deaths and damage caused by deer on roadways is 150 motorist fatalities and about $1.1 billion in vehicle damage, according to a new study.

The research was conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Cornell University, both in Ithaca, N.Y., using federal and state records, as well as previous academic studies on this topic, to develop its national estimates.

“Although precise data are not available, the best estimates suggest that more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle crashes in the United States in 2002 produced at least $1.1 billion in vehicle damage, about 150 human fatalities and at least 1.5 million dead deer,” according to the study, “Methods to Reduce Traffic Crashes Involving Deer: What Works and What Does Not.”

“Deer and motor vehicles do not share the nation’s highways gracefully or safely,” the study noted. “Deer inhabit all of the United States, including Hawaii, where they have escaped from captivity.” Furthermore, deer-related crashes are on the rise, as both deer populations and vehicular travel continue to increase.

Deer population is difficult to estimate, but some estimates put the total U.S. deer population at more than 25-to-30 million, the researchers said.

But among the numerous attempts made in the past to reduce deer crashes, only one method has proven to be consistently effective. The study said that fences–combined with underpasses and overpasses–are the “only broadly accepted method that is theoretically sound and proven to be effective.” But it is still not a perfect solution–fences are expensive to construct and maintain, and even the best fencing will not prevent all deer from entering a roadway.

The study found there are some promising new approaches that could lower deer-related crashes in the future. One is herd reduction, which, as part of an overall wildlife management program, can be effective if the deer population in a specific area is reduced substantially.

Roadside clearing–along with better roadway design and maintenance as well as warning signs–can also be effective, the report said.

Another strategy is to equip cars with infrared technology that can detect deer and other heat-emitting objects on the road. These devices have recently been added to high-end personal automobiles, including Cadillacs by General Motors, the study said.