Minnesota researchers explore how road design can reduce deer collisions
New research coming out of Minnesota may help prevent future crashes between cars and deer.
“That peak season is right now, in particular when you start entering that hunting season,” said Sgt. Jesse Grabow of Minnesota State Patrol.
A study at the University of Washington last year also found car-deer crashes increased by 16% after the fall time change — which will happen Sunday morning with the end of Daylight Saving Time — largely due to it being dark out during the evening commute when deer are more active.
Now, a team at the University of Minnesota is releasing their own two-year study on car-deer crashes, hoping to shed some light on why car-deer crashes are happening and how to prevent them.
First, they looked at how many crashes happen in our state.
On average, about 1,300 car-deer crashes are reported to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety each year. However, researchers found the actual number could be 10 to 20 times higher than that since not every car-deer crash gets reported to police.
The team then created a mapping tool that pinpoints high-risk areas for car-deer crashes, based on the data.
“What we could do is look at, for example, characteristics of the road, how wide it was, what the speed limit was. So the second part of our project was related to what can we do to reduce the number of these crashes?” explained Ron Moen, wildlife biologist at the Natural Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
They recently shared their findings with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, noting driver speed is one of the main factors in predicting deer-vehicle collisions, or DVCs.
He said MnDOT could use the information to change speed limits or redesign roadways.
“One of the things you’re seeing already in a lot of areas is cutting back trees from the roadsides. If you have that area of opening on the side of the road, deer are more visible and that makes it possible to slow down,” Moen said.
He noted driver awareness of DVC hotspots may also help prevent crashes.
In the meantime, the State Patrol is reminding drivers not to veer for deer, as that can put you in danger of oncoming traffic or flipping your car on the side of the road.
And if you do hit a deer, think twice before getting out of your vehicle.
“Assess the situation. Are you OK? What’s going on now? Is the deer still in the roadway? Is it something I can safely remove or do I need to let authorities know so they can safely remove the deer from the highway? It just kind of depends on each circumstance,” Grabow said.