Oregon State Police, Oregon Department of Transportation, and Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife urge motorists to be on alert while traveling for more wildlife on or along our highways at this time of the year. Their warning comes at the start of November, a month which both nationally and locally has the highest number of reported wildlife-related collisions.
According to statistics from ODOT's Crash Analysis & Reporting Section, wildlife-involved traffic collisions have been on the rise in Oregon. Last year, ODOT received reports of 1,283 such crashes, up from 1,199 reported in 2011, and approximately 30 percent higher than the number reported in 2007 (903 reported crashes). Officials believe the numbers are actually higher because most collisions involving wildlife result in property damage only to the involved vehicle and do not get reported to police or DMV. A glance at ODOT's emergency response dispatch center log for a three-month period shows more than 1,000 reported crashes involved wildlife, and that was just in southern Oregon.
Recent examples of these crashes include:
• On October 31, 2013, two people traveling at night westbound on Highway 140W near milepost 65 swerved to avoid a deer in the road. The vehicle's driver lost control, traveled across both lanes, and overturned after striking an embankment. Both occupants were not injured.
• On September 24, 2013, a commercial truck driver traveling at night eastbound on Highway 26 near milepost 82 in Wasco County struck a bull elk. The truck and tanker trailer overturned, blocking the highway for several hours. The truck driver received serious, but non-life threatening injuries.
• On September 8, 2013, a commercial truck driver traveling before sunrise southbound on Highway 97 south of Grass Valley swerved to avoid several deer in the roadway. He lost control and rolled off the highway. The truck driver received non-life threatening injuries.
• On June 23, 2013, a motorcyclist traveling during daylight hours on Highway 19 west of Spray in Wheeler County struck a deer and was found deceased by a passing motorist.
ODOT statistics indicate since 2003 there have been more than 9,400 reported wildlife-involved collisions in Oregon, thirty (30) of which resulted in a fatality. More than a third of the total reported crashes occurred September - November. Since 2008, Oregon counties with the highest number of reported wildlife-involved crashes are Lane, Clackamas, Deschutes, Douglas, and Jackson.
During the last ten years, the top five months with the highest number of reported wildlife-involved crashes were:
• November (1,256 reported total crashes / 178 reported in 2012)
• October (1,125 reported crashes / 164 reported in 2012)
• September (1,013 reported crashes / 152 reported in 2012)
• July (1,010 reported crashes / 145 reported in 2012)
• August (965 reportered crashes / 112 reported in 2012)
OSP, ODOT and ODFW urge drivers to be aware of the possible dangers associated with animals on or near our highways. Extra vigilance is required. The following information may help reduce animal/vehicle incidents:
--The annual deer rut season typically lasts from late October to mid-to-late November, increasing deer activity and increasing the potential for deer to cross roads.
--During the next few months there will be fewer daylight hours and visibility will be challenged by darkness and winter weather conditions.
--Be attentive at all times, especially sunset to sunrise for any potential hazard on or near the highway.
--When driving in areas that have special signs indicating the possible presence of animals/wildlife, please use extra caution because these signs are posted for a reason.
--Be extra careful in areas where there is a lot of vegetation next to the road or while going around curves. Wildlife near the road may not be visible.
--Remember that the presence of any type of animal/wildlife could also mean that others are nearby.
--When you see an animal/wildlife near or on the roadway, reduce your speed and try to stay in your lane. Many serious crashes are the result of drivers swerving to avoid wildlife or other obstacles and they crash into another vehicle or lose control of their own vehicle.
--The same advice applies for smaller wildlife like nutria or raccoons - try to stay in your lane and do not swerve for these animals. They are less dangerous to vehicles than big game animals; losing control of the vehicle is a larger concern.
--Always wear your safety belt, even the slightest collision could result in serious injuries.