Study On Deer Vehicle Crashes

MINNESOTA — It’s likely that you or someone you know has been in a crash with a deer. Both Minnesota and Wisconsin are in the top ten states in regard to the number of these types of crashes. Now a 2-year study in Minnesota is trying to reduce the chances you’ll hit a deer.

Ron Moen is likely one of the most knowledgeable people in the state regarding deer vehicle crashes…after all, as part of a study underway by MnDOT, he’s been to about 600 of these incident sites.

Moen is an assistant professor at UMD in the Biology Department and the Natural Resources Research Institute. He is one of two researchers working on a study that is looking for ways to reduce deer vehicle crashes. He’s been visiting deer crash sites to try to determine what they have in common. In some sense, he is trying get inside a deer’s head to determine why they were in that area.

“The patterns that we’re seeing for example one of the things would be vegetation on the side of the road. You’ve probably noticed how roadside are being cleared. The reason for that is so you can see deer better,” said Moen.

The other researcher on this study is Raphael Stern, a U of M Twin Cities assistant professor and specialist in the Traffic Engineering department. He’s studying the engineering and the road design side of the equation. How does a road contribute to these incidents?

“There’s kind of two different aspects to this. The one is can we retrofit existing roadways and the other is can we make sensible recommendations for new roadways or roadways that are being re-designed going forward,” said Stern.

An important part of this study is trying to determine the total number of deer vehicle crashes every year. Moen estimates that only about 10% or 4,000 of these crashes are being reported…and these are only the ones that have caused significant damage. The other 90% involve little or no damage but could indicate areas where more serious crashes could occur.

When this study is completed, in about a year, the researchers and MnDOT hope the recommendations from the study will reduce the number of deer crashes.

Moen said, “The ultimate goal of this work, and it’s one of the things that’s so different from a lot of the stuff I’ve done, is it’s got a real human benefit. If we can reduce from 40,000 down to 38,000, that’s a tremendous difference in people, in times of cost, work time, things like that. Also, we’ve got fewer dead dear in the road.”

The best advice to avoid hitting a deer remains the same.

Number one – Be Alert
Number two – Slow Down

And if you’re going to hit a dear, experts also advise that you don’t swerve. That you go ahead and hit the deer instead of going into oncoming traffic or running into a tree.

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