OUT: Shorter days bring additional road accidents involving wildlife

The return to Mountain Standard Time means it will be dark or nearly so when most Colorado motorists head home from work.

For many drivers, shorter days bring more chances to be involved in a wildlife-related accident.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is warning motorists that the combination of hunting season and the season of romance for deer means the animals will be on the move and particularly reckless when it comes to crossing roads, even when vehicles are present.

“Fall is a particularly dangerous season for motorists and wildlife,” said Mark Cousins, hunter education coordinator for the Division of Wildlife. “Many people are now commuting at dusk when visibility is poor and when many of our big game animals are most active.”

Citing a study by the Colorado Department of Transportation which says November sees more car accidents involving wildlife than any other month, Cousins said motorists need to drive defensively when deer are around.

“Deer are extremely vulnerable to being struck this time of year because this is their peak mating season,” Cousins said.

“They are more mobile, easily distracted and more likely to be crossing roadways.”

The CDOT study said from 1993 through 2005, 31,824 wildlife/vehicle collisions were reported on Colorado’s roads.

According to CDOT records, motor vehicle accidents involving wildlife rank as the third-leading cause for crashes behind speeding and inattentive driving. These statistics include severe property damage, injuries and fatalities.

A list of the state’s highest-risk drives include U.S. Highway 550 from Montrose to Ouray, U.S. Highway 160 from Durango to Montrose and Colorado Highway 13 from Rifle to Craig.

But there also are other stretches of road, including sections of South Broadway (Colorado Highway 340) where deer move between the Colorado River and high land to the south, where motorists may encounter unexpected company.

It’s surprising how much damage a fragile-looking deer can do to your car.

According to the National Safety Council, the average cost per insurance claim for collision damage is $2,800, with costs varying depending on the type of vehicle and severity of damage. When you factor in auto claims involving bodily injury, the average rises to $10,000.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates 1.5 million vehicles collide with deer every year, resulting in 150 motorists’ deaths and $1.1 billion in vehicle damages.
Insurance records say about two-thirds of those unexpected meetings will happen between October and December.

Cousins said drivers should follow a few simple rules to lessen their chances of a wildlife collision.

“Slow down, stay alert and scan ahead,” he urged.

Also, take note of where the state has erected wildlife crossing signs.

Which also poses that age-old question: How did elk and deer learn to cross at the signs?


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