Improving Animal-Vehicle Collision Data for the Strategic Application of Mitigation
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Improving Animal-Vehicle Collision Data for the Strategic Application of Mitigation

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    Final Report
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    Virginia is consistently among the 10 states with the highest number of deer-vehicle collisions (DVCs), with more than 61,000 reported for the year ending June 30, 2016. Whereas DVCs represented 1 in 11 of the vehicle insurance claims nationwide in 2014, they represented 1 in 6 of the claims in Virginia. Although the insurance data provide some information on the magnitude of the DVC problem, insurance data do not provide location information for these crashes. Decision makers rely on reliable crash data to identify problem areas and determine the magnitude of the problem. Although the literature shows that animal-vehicle collisions (AVCs) are underrepresented in police crash report data, more detailed analyses are needed to determine the scale. Effective mitigation approaches to the AVC problem in Virginia are limited until a means to access and/or collect adequate data is identified. In this study, quality and cost evaluations of DVC data in Virginia were conducted that indicated an AVC underreporting phenomenon that is a problem nationwide. The study found that DVCs represent a considerable safety hazard in Virginia, but the magnitude of this problem is not apparent from the data that are currently available. According to deer carcass removal records, the number of DVCs in the evaluated areas was up to 8.5 times greater than what was documented in police crash reports, and DVCs were the most frequent type of collision in the areas evaluated. The underrepresentation of DVCs understates the costs of these collisions. DVCs were estimated to be 6 times costlier on average than what was indicated from police crash report data. The estimates used in this study put the DVCs as the fourth costliest of the 14 major collision types in Virginia, averaging more than $533 million per year. The underrepresentation of deer-related crash volumes relative to other collision types create missed opportunities for DVC mitigation in Virginia. Reliable data can be used to identify DVC hotspots for strategic mitigation, and the success of countermeasures such as wildlife underpasses with fencing have led to an increase in such mitigation in the United States in recent decades. The study recommends that a carcass removal element be added to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Highway Maintenance Management System (HMMS), currently in development. The HMMS is intended to provide a means for maintenance staff to track road maintenance activities digitally. Adding a module to the HMMS that would provide an efficient and accurate means to collect carcass removal records would lead to a high-quality DVC dataset if routinely used by maintenance staff. With better information, the Virginia Department of Transportation can address these collisions in a manner that is consistent with their impact on the driving public.
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