News & Media

Wildlife-vehicle collisions on Colorado roads decreasing

by Monte Whaley (The Denver Post)
October 18, 2012

October and November are always a bad time of the year for Colorado motorists and wildlife — it’s when elk, deer and other animals on their way to winter habitats begin colliding with cars and trucks.

The result is often costly — and sometimes deadly.

Nationwide, insurers pay out nearly $1.1 billion annually in claims for all wildlife-vehicle collisions, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. The average property damage cost of collisions involving wildlife during the second half of 2010 and the first half of 2011 was $3,171, up 2.2 percent from the year before.

But there is some good news: There have been fewer wildlife-vehicle collisions since 2006, the Colorado Department of Transportation reports.

The decline could be attributed to more driver awareness and new speed restrictions in areas were there is heavy wildlife traffic.

“It could be due to weather, changing migration routes, a number of things,” said Mike McVaugh, the CDOT traffic and safety engineer for the southwest region. “This overall trend is encouraging.”

Once again this year, motorists will see roadside reminders to slow down in specific wildlife corridors in Colorado during the migration season.

The increased signage was part of legislation in 2010 that also reduced speeds to 55 mph from 60 to 65 mph and doubled fines for speeding at night in those corridors October through May.

In all, CDOT identified 100 miles of wildlife-crossing zones where nighttime speed enforcement was feasible.

Other sections of highway are signed “Wildlife Corridor,” but the nighttime speed remains the same. However, fines are doubled for speeding in all zones.

CDOT also found that during the period the signs were posted — April 2010 to last May — there was a 9 percent drop in wildlife-vehicle collisions. There was also an increase in citations written for speeding in the wildlife zones, but CDOT says its hard to say whether that led to the dip in collisions.

CDOT is going to study the affect of the signage and increased enforcement for two more migration seasons to make sure the efforts are putting a dent in wildlife-vehicle mishaps.