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High-tech equipment may help reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions

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,
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Contact: Marcel Huijser
mhuijser@coe.montana.edu
406-543-2377
Montana State University
12-Sep-2006


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