Preventing Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions: A Look at Car Accidents Involving Animals

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Preventing Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions: A Look at Car Accidents Involving Animals

Preventing Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions: A Look at Car Accidents Involving Animals

Jun 10, 2021

California is home to a variety of different animal species. Bears, coyotes, deer, cougars, and more can be found throughout the vast Golden State landscape. As industrialization and urban infrastructure has expanded, humans and wildlife habitats are more closely connected than ever before. Accordingly, wildlife-vehicle collisions occur on a regular basis, particularly in a state like California.

Let’s look at what wildlife-vehicle collisions entail, examine some statistics related to this type of motor vehicle accident, and review what steps are being taken to reduce motor vehicle injuries and fatalities.

What is a Wildlife-Vehicle Collision (WVC)?

Wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVC) occur when a motor vehicle strikes an animal. This can occur when an animal is moving or, as a secondary cause, when a vehicle swerves to avoid an animal carcass in the road. WVCs pose a serious safety hazard for both people and wildlife. Additionally, WVCs produce a significant economic toll.

WVCs can lead to various costs, such as vehicle damage, human injury and resulting medical bills, towing and law enforcement services, and carcass removal and disposal.

How Many Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions Occur Every Year?

In a 2008 report to Congress by the Federal Highway Administration, the cited study found that an estimated 1 to 2 million collisions between cars and large animals occur every year in the United States. That’s a staggering amount of car accidents involving animals, and the danger posed to drivers and passengers can be extreme.

Those WVCs lead to an estimated 26,000 human injuries and 200 human fatalities.

The U.S. Congress commissioned the Secretary of Transportation to conduct the study cited in the report. It was an effort to identify the causes and impacts of WVCs while also establishing some potential solutions to what the study referred to as a “growing safety problem.”

Some key statistics from the study included:

  • More than 98% of WVCs are single-vehicle crashes.
  • 89% of WVCs occur on two-lane roads.
  • WVCs occur more frequently on low-volume roads.
  • Compared to all motor vehicle collisions, WVCs occur more frequently on straight roads with dry road surfaces.
  • WVCs occur more frequently in the early morning (5-9 a.m.) and evening (4 p.m.-12 a.m.), when deer are more active and traffic volume is relatively high.
  • WVCs occur more frequently in spring and especially in fall, when animals move around more due to migration, mating, or hunting seasons.
  • The vast majority (as high as 90% in some states) of reported WVCs involve deer.
  • White-tailed deer-vehicle collisions are associated with diverse landscapes with abundant edge habitat (transitions from cover to more open habitat) and riparian habitat.

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What are the Costs of Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions?

Overall, the study concluded that the best estimate of the total annual cost associated with WVCs (based on available date) was $8,388,000,000. That’s over $8 billion per year in costs associated with car accidents involving deer, coyotes, squirrels, racoons, and more.

The study also found that motor vehicle collisions with deer were the single largest category involving human and vehicle costs.

The average costs from a collision with a deer were estimated to be as follows:

  • $1,840 in vehicle repair costs
  • $2,702 in medical costs
  • $125 in towing and law enforcement services
  • $2,000 for the monetary value of the animal
  • $50 for carcass removal and disposal

While those estimated costs were for WVCs involving deer, the study noted that costs can increase substantially if a car collides with a larger animal, such as an elk or moose.

How Many Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions Occur in California?

In 2017, Bloomberg issued a report confirming that incidents of WVCs were on the rise in California. The piece cited a study from the University of California, Davis, indicating that the San Francisco Bay Area was among the worst for WVCs. The story referred to surge of WVCs as a “maelstrom of animal-driver carnage” and presented statistics to support such a statement.

According to the UC Davis study, car accidents involving deer are by far the most common, but coyotes, bears, elk, mountain lions, and wild pigs can also be a danger to California drivers. The university’s researchers recorded 7,831 WVCs in 2016 on highways and major roads (an increase of more than 2,000 from the previous year).

But the study noted that those numbers are likely underestimates, as many people often do not report hitting animals, while others swerve to avoid them and fail to mention wildlife in the accident report.

In 2015 and 2016, California’s WVCs cost $500 million, according to the Road Ecology Center. Additionally, some Bay Area highways – like the 23-mile stretch of Interstate 280 leading through Silicon Valley – were rampant with WVCs. At least 386 collisions were reported along that stretch of interstate during the two-year period, making the costs of such collisions over $1 million per mile.

What Steps are Being Taken to Reduce Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions?

One option for reducing WVCs is to install wildlife fencing – typically eight-foot-tall barricades with square mesh, according to the Bloomberg report. But according to an expert, wildlife fencing in California should actually be increased to 10 feet in order to repel mountain lions.

Additionally, human constructed underpasses and overpasses can give animals safe passage. The New York Times recently published a story on this very topic, which outlined various passages that can be created to allow animals to safely cross highways.

A bipartisan Senate version of the transportation bill reportedly includes $350 million for wildlife crossings and corridors. The proposed crossing across Southern California’s 101 Freeway – designed to allow mountain lions to cross safely – would be the largest of its kind in the world, spanning 210 feet over 10 lanes of highway and pavement together with an access road.

Last month, the National Wildlife Federation’s #SaveLACougars campaign announced that philanthropist Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation made a record $25 million conservation challenge grant to help break ground on that wildlife crossing. It would be built over the 101 Freeway in the Liberty Canyon area of Agoura Hills.

Local ABC 7 reported that the proposed wildlife crossing would include a landscape design that blends the structure into the surrounding mountain habitat, providing a connection between the small population of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains and the larger and genetically diverse populations to the north. In addition to helping reduce WVCs, the animal crossing would help to protect the endangered mountain lion population and other wildlife in the area.

Can I Sue if I Was Injured in a Wildlife-Vehicle Collision?

To be successful, a personal injury lawsuit needs to prove that an individual or entity owed the injured party a duty of care, and that duty of care was breached. In a wildlife-vehicle collision, the circumstances of the accident will determine whether or not the injured party has a valid claim. If no other vehicles were on the road and you happened to hit a deer, the chances of bringing a successful personal injury claim would be limited because there would be no at-fault party to identify.

However, if you swerved to miss an animal and ended up striking a fixed object that is owned by a government or state agency, you may be able to recover various types of financial compensation. Additionally, if you’re the passenger of a car that was involved in a WVC, you might be able to sue the driver of the vehicle you were in for any related financial losses. Moreover, if you were struck by a vehicle that was swerving to avoid an animal in the road, you would almost certainly be able to bring a claim for financial compensation against that driver.

If you were involved in a WVC, the best way to determine whether or not you have a claim is to contact an experienced and dedicated car accident attorney from Dordulian Law Group (DLG). We’ll listen to the facts of your case and help you determine whether or not pursuing a legal claim would be advantageous.

Our expert team of attorneys can help rideshare accident victims secure financial damages. Contact our top-rated lawyers online or by phone for a free consultation today.

Get the DLG Advantage for Your Car Accident Claim

DLG provides unmatched advantages for injured car accident victims. Our founder and president, Sam Dordulian, previously served as Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County. In that role, Dordulian garnered over 100 jury trial victories. That level of courtroom experience is hard to find in a personal injury lawyer, and it’s an added advantage we give to every car accident client.

With Dordulian’s courtroom savvy, we’re able to prepare every car accident claim for trial. This means that if an insurance company or at-fault party attempts a quick lowball settlement, we decline it and take the case to trial. Having this option means we never have to accept less than a maximum financial damages award for our car accident clients.

Additionally, two of our Car Accident Division attorneys previously worked for major auto insurance companies as defense counsel. Now they fight for our injured car accident clients, ensuring they’re never taken advantage of by these massive corporations and their high-powered attorneys. That level of insider industry experience can be invaluable when negotiating a maximum financial damages award for your car accident claim.

Finally, each car accident claim is investigated by our chief investigator, Moses Castillo. As a retired LAPD detective, Castillo has investigated and closed some of the city’s most high-profile hit-and-runs, multi-car crashes, and rollover accidents. Uncovering evidence in a car accident case can be the difference between a $10,000 settlement and a $10 million settlement. That’s why we dispatch Castillo on every car accident claim we handle – so any piece of evidence that can help prove your case and increase your damages award is recovered.

With a 98% success rate and over $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts recovered for injured clients like you, DLG is the best car accident firm in California. Contact us today online or by phone at 818-322-4056 to learn more about what it means to secure the DLG Advantage for your car accident case.

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