Friday, July 12, 2024

Virginia Undertakes Pilot Program to Reduce Wildlife Collisions

Between 2012 and 2021, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found almost 2,000 people nationally were killed in crashes involving deer, including 35 in Virginia. (Adobe Stock)

RICHMOND — A Virginia pilot program aims to reduce wildlife collisions with cars.

The program stems from a $350 million federal Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program.

Six hundred thousand dollars will be allocated to developing infrastructure to improve road safety — particularly in rural areas with the hope of lowering these collisions.

Virginia is ranked as one of the top ten states where wildlife collisions occur.

Jeremy Romero, wildlife connectivity manager with the National Wildlife Federation, noted that this funding works hand in hand with Virginia’s Wildlife Corridor Action Plan.

“This $600,000 that was awarded to Virginia’s Department of Transportation will help to develop that statewide action plan,” said Romero, “to continue to identify the roads with the highest risk of large mammal collisions in the state.”

The Action Plan is threefold in its objectives. It aims to promote driver safety, improve wildlife corridors and advance mutual benefits.

Romero said one of the biggest ways people can remain safe is to slow down in areas where there is a lot of wildlife. He also said drivers should be aware of their surroundings in those areas to avoid these kinds of accidents.

One thing this can also work toward is developing infrastructure that isn’t so impactful to wildlife.

Virginia’s Wildlife Corridor Action Plan finds roads where most animal accidents occur line up with highly trafficked wildlife areas. Romero said roads act as a barrier to key wildlife corridors.

“Roads are something that intersect these important corridors and what we call fragment the habitat,” said Romero. “Ultimately, we want connectivity of these landscapes to be improved, and to be at a point where there’s a reduced amount of barriers — whether that’s roads, whether that’s fences, whether that’s development.”

The impact these crashes have on humans is equally devastating. The U.S. Department of Transportation finds more than one million wildlife-vehicle collisions occur each year.

These result in around 200 human fatalities and around 26,000 injuries to drivers and passengers. It also costs the public around $10 billion in economic costs such as loss of income, medical bills and property damage.

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