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The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Improving Animal-Vehicle Collision Data for the Strategic Application of Mitigation
Bridget M. Donaldson
Bridget M. Donaldson
Year: 2017
VTRC No.: 18-R16
Abstract: 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.