High-tech equipment may help reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions

Sep 12, 2006
Wildlife-Detection System in Yellowstone
As part of a six-year study, the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University helped test and develop this animal-detection system on U.S. Highway 191 in Yellowstone National Park. The system reliably detects elk on, or near, the roadway ahead and warns drivers. Credit: Photo by Marcel Huijser, WTI-MSU

As part of a six-year study, researchers at the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University have helped test and develop an animal-detection system that may give motorists the upper hand in avoiding crashes with wildlife across the nation.

The system, by Sensor Technologies & Systems of Scottsdale, Ariz., reliably detected elk on U.S. Highway 191 in Yellowstone National Park. How effective the system is in reducing animal-vehicle collisions will be evaluated over the next two years.

The testing and development of the system was just one part of a 271-page report summarizing all the available information on animal-detection systems in the world: data from more than 30 study sites and 15 different animal-detection technologies in place across United States and Europe. One Swiss study showed collisions with large animals were reduced 82 percent in locations with animal-detection systems.

Animal detection systems use passive or active infrared signals, lasers, microwaves, or seismic sensors to activate warning signs that urge drivers to slow down, be more alert, or both, when large animals are on, or near, the road ahead.

"This is a very promising technology that can make U.S. roadways safer. Our results urge us to fine tune this technology so that it can be used across the country," said Marcel Huijser, the study's lead investigator at the WTI.

WTI researchers also calculated the average total costs associated with an animal-vehicle collision for three species: $7,890 for deer, $17,100 for elk, and $28,100 for moose. Further calculations showed that animal detection systems could be cost effective; they may pay for themselves at locations that have at least five deer, three elk or two moose collisions per mile per year on average.

Nationally, roughly 200 people are killed, more than 15,000 injured and 300,000 vehicles damaged annually from collisions with wildlife and domestic animals, according to federal safety data.

In Montana alone, five people were killed and 123 injured in 2005 out of 1,866 recorded wildlife-vehicle collisions, according to the Montana Highway Patrol.

The Oregon Department of Transportation was the lead funding agency for the study, but reducing animal-vehicle collisions has a broad national interest and the departments of transportation from California, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Alaska, as well the Federal Highway Administration all participated.

"Animal detection systems are a relatively new application of these technologies. This study gives us some data on how effective they are," said Barnie Jones of the Oregon Department of Transportation, the lead state in managing the research project.

"Despite these technologies being exposed to extreme cold, snow and rain, the project helped develop a system that detects elk reliably," Jones said. "States such as Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada are all planning on adding animal detection systems to their roadways."

The study also generated ideas on how to make animal-detection systems smaller and more reliable. Another follow-up project will aim to set standards for reliability by comparing different systems at the same location under similar circumstances in Lewistown, Mont.

Source: Montana State University

Explore further: First drone in Nevada test program crashes in demo

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Hairclip' protein mechanism explained

36 minutes ago

Research led by the Teichmann group on the Wellcome Genome Campus has identified a fundamental mechanism for controlling protein function. Published in the journal Science, the discovery has wide-ranging implications for bi ...

The fine-tuning of human color perception

36 minutes ago

The evolution of trichromatic color vision in humans occurred by first switching from the ability to detect UV light to blue light (between 80-30 MYA) and then by adding green-sensitivity (between 45-30 MYA) ...

Recommended for you

First drone in Nevada test program crashes in demo

10 hours ago

A drone testing program in Nevada is off to a bumpy start after the first unmanned aircraft authorized to fly without Federal Aviation Administration supervision crashed during a ceremony in Boulder City.

Fully automated: Thousands of blood samples every hour

18 hours ago

Siemens is supplying automation technology for the longest and one of the most cutting-edge sample processing lines in any clinical laboratory. The line, or automation track, 200 meters long, in Marlborough, ...

Explainer: What is 4-D printing?

18 hours ago

Additive manufacturing – or 3D printing – is 30 years old this year. Today, it's found not just in industry but in households, as the price of 3D printers has fallen below US$1,000. Knowing you can p ...

First series production vehicle with software control

18 hours ago

Siemens has unveiled the first electric series production vehicle with the central electronics and software architecture RACE. This technology, developed in the research project of the same name, replaces ...

Amputee puts limb system through its paces

21 hours ago

"Amputee Makes History with APL's Modular Prosthetic Limb" is the headline from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, where a team working on prosthetics observed a milestone when a double amputee showed ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.