Each year in Nevada, vehicle collisions with wild and domestic/feral animals result in more than 500 reported crashes, cost the Nevada public over $19 million in crash costs, and kill an estimated 5,032 wild animals. Research estimates that more than 50 percent of such collisions can go unreported to authorities, pointing to a potentially higher number of animal-related incidents. Across the nation, traffic crashes involving wildlife cause an estimated $5 to $8 billion in damage each year.
In addition, scientists estimate that U.S. roads impact the natural ecology of at least one-fifth of the country. These roads increase animal deaths, fragment and decrease habitat, prevent wildlife from accessing natural resources and isolate wildlife populations into smaller and more vulnerable subpopulations.
The substantial human, economic and wildlife costs caused by vehicle-animal collisions have led scientists and engineers to develop tools to reduce the deadly crashes. One of those tools, wildlife crossings (a type of safety crossing), has been successful at reducing both vehicle-animal collisions and wildlife impacts caused by roads.
In a continual effort to provide the safest roadways, the Nevada Department of Transportation and partners such as the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Nevada Department of Wildlife are installing safety crossings.
Safety crossings are passages above or beneath roadways that are designed to increase road safety and reduce collisions by redirecting wildlife out of the way of oncoming vehicles.
From underpasses and overpasses to small mammal tunnels and other crossings, all of these structures are designed to provide semi-natural corridors through which animals can safely cross roads without endangering motorists and themselves. Often, safety crossings for larger animals are installed in conjunction with fencing to help direct animals to cross at the desired location, avoiding potential traffic collisions.
Since the first wildlife crossings were constructed in France in the middle of the last century, European countries have successfully used various crossing structures to reduce the conflict between wildlife and cars.
These crossings are becoming increasingly common in the United States and Canada, reducing vehicle-animal collisions and allowing safe crossing of deer and elk in Arizona, mountain goats and grizzly bears in Montana, deer, elk and moose in Wyoming and desert tortoises in California, among other areas.
Our developed areas and travel have increased, bringing people further in contact with deer and other large wild animals. Many of our country’s rural highways have been constructed through deer migratory routes. In states where mule deer migrate between winter and summer feeding ranges, the migration intersects major highways.
In Nevada, numerous agencies and partners are working together to install safety crossings in areas shown by research to have high vehicle-animal collision rates. The crossings join with other road safety features, such as centerline rumble strips, installed across Nevada to achieve safer roadways.
The Nevada Department of Transportation and Nevada Department of Wildlife analyzed which state roadways have the largest percentage of vehicle-animal collisions to identify locations where safety crossings would be most effective in reducing vehicle-animal collision rates.
Using a regional approach to improving traffic safety and habitat connectivity, nine crossings have been installed on I-80 between Wendover and Wells and U.S. 93 north of Wells in northeastern Nevada to reduce potentially dangerous vehicle-animal collisions.
Research conducted by the University of Nevada, Reno shows that, during the first four years in which the U.S. 93 safety crossings were installed, more than 35,000 mule deer used a safety crossing during their seasonal migrations; keeping them off the road and helping prevent potential collisions with vehicles.
- Help prevent human and animal injuries and deaths caused by vehicle-animal collisions and drivers swerving to miss an animal
- Help reduce costs of vehicle, property and infrastructure damage caused by vehicle-animal collisions and crashes caused by drivers swerving to miss an animal
- Preserve healthy wildlife populations by reducing animal deaths and injury caused while crossing roads
- Preserve access to natural wildlife habitat and migration corridors for wildlife
- Foster wildlife biodiversity and reduce habitat fragmentation which hinders genetic diversity and health among wild animal populations
Like all technology, safety crossings can not provide protection in every circumstance. Always follow these important safety tips:
- Obey all speed limits and traffic signs and regulations
- Wear seatbelts
- Limit distractions while driving
- Drive defensively
- Heed animal warning signs. Be aware and alert for the potential presence of wildlife, particularly in areas where wildlife warning signs are posted.
- Actively scan all sides and areas of the road as you drive for any signs of wildlife
- Adjust driving speeds if necessary to help reduce the chance and impact of an animal collision
- Remember that many accidents are not due to colliding with wildlife but are the result of driving into another car or truck in the opposite lane while trying to avoid colliding with the animal
- Herd animals such as deer and elk travel in groups. If you see one deer, there is a strong likelihood that others may be others nearby or in other locations along the road.
- Use your vehicle’s high beams at night, early morning hours or in other dark lighting conditions to view the roadway ahead