Technology might reduce animal-vehicle crashes

| Thursday, September 27, 2001

Researchers are pooling federal resources to look at new technology that could give drivers a heads up when large animals such as deer and elk are crossing the roadway. Individual drivers usually pay at least $2,000 in vehicle repair every time they hit a deer.

At test sites in Indiana and Montana, warning signs are being installed in areas with large animal migrations in hopes of preventing animal/vehicle collisions. On the back of each sign is a microwave radar unit that emits a beam for detecting the movement of large animals. When an animal breaks the beam, flashing lights on the signs are activated.

The broken-beam technology is similar to systems used for security at military installations and prisons. "It's basically a new application for the same technology that tells you if someone is approaching the prison all," Kevin Haas, a research engineer in the Oregon Department of Transportation's (ODOT) Planning and Research Section, said in a released statement. "It can tell whether an animal is approaching or leaving the highway."

In addition, researchers will study human behavior to see how drivers react. They will monitor vehicle speed and other driver behaviors to see if the flashing lights make a difference to drivers.

According to ODOT, more than 200 drivers are killed and thousands more are injured in animal-vehicle collisions in the United States each year.