Oh, deer! Mating season, motorists and the end of Daylight Saving Time
- This weekend’s time change puts motorists at greater risk for wildlife collisions
- Mating season means drivers are likelier to encounter animals on the road
- As Daylight Saving Time ends, extra precautions can help ensure safety
As Albertans prepare to turn the clocks back, AMA is urging motorists to be mindful of a somewhat risqué risk: amorous animals. The end of Daylight Saving Time on Sunday, Nov. 6 means dusk will come an hour earlier, placing commuters on the road at a time when deer and other wildlife are most active: dusk until midnight.
“Wildlife mating season, in combination with attraction to road salt and long stretches of highway that are clear of snow, makes October through January the highest-risk period for wildlife collisions,” said Rick Lang of AMA. “Factor in the end of Daylight Saving Time, when it gets darker earlier – about 4:50 p.m. instead of 5:50 p.m. – and motorists will need to exercise even more caution on highways and rural roads.”
According to the Wildlife Collision Prevention Program, about 80 per cent of wildlife-vehicle collisions involve deer, with the peak time being November – a period in which the rut (mating season) sees those animals acting on biological urges and paying less attention to traffic. Other wildlife who mate around this time include moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats.
And much like human relationships, animal attraction comes at a high price.
Researchers at the Miistakis Institute looked at 12 years of data for a short section of Highway 3 in Alberta and pegged the annual cost of wildlife collisions at nearly $1 million dollars – a figure that accounts for property damage, human injury, fatalities and lost hunting revenue. And that’s just a 44 km stretch of a single highway.
Because it’s easier to control driver behaviour than that of wanton wildlife, AMA recommends several steps for reducing risk:
- Slow down. The faster you’re going, the greater the distance you’ll need to stop. Obey posted speed limits to allow more time to react if an animal appears in your path. The severity of a collision spikes exponentially as speed increases, making the potential for death or serious injury more significant.
- Watch for animals in both rural and urban areas. With urban encroachment and expansion into habitats, wildlife can be found anywhere. Don’t assume there’s no risk just because most of your driving is within city or town limits.
- Take extra care this weekend: An analysis of 21 years of crash data in the U.S. found the fall time-change was linked to a significant increase in late night (early Sunday morning) accidents. Researchers suggest this is due to people staying out later, and driving sleepy or intoxicated, in anticipation of the longer day on Sunday. Given that nighttime is very active for wildlife, staying alert is key.
- Pay attention to posted signs. Triangular yellow signs posted by the side of the road indicate specific areas where animals have been known to cross. Use extra caution when you see these signs and watch for animals at the side of the road, as they may suddenly bolt across your path.
- Try to drive during daylight hours. Animal migration happens most often during early morning and twilight hours. By restricting your driving to daylight, you’ll reduce your risk.
- Watch for groups. The animal you see isn’t necessarily the one you’ll hit. Animals often travel in groups, so if you see one animal near the road or crossing, others are likely to follow.
- Know when not to swerve. If an animal suddenly comes across your path, brake firmly but don’t swerve or leave your lane, as you may cause a collision with another vehicle or careen over an embankment.
- Reduce the impact. Angular hits and braking firmly can lessen the impact if you’re unable to avoid hitting an animal. If you’re about to collide with a moose and can’t avoid a direct impact, duck as low as you can, as moose tend to flip onto the windshield and can crush your vehicle’s roof.
- Recognize other risks: Animals aren’t the only ones at risk when it gets dark earlier; collisions involving pedestrians tend to spike as the days draw shorter, with the evening “rush hour” (3 p.m. until 7 p.m.) proving most dangerous. AMA has a complete list of pedestrian safety tips here.
Contact the AMA Newsroom to request an interview about road or pedestrian safety: 1-888-960-NEWS or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Alberta Motor Association (AMA) is among the largest membership organizations in Alberta, representing more than 950,000 members. As a leading advocate for traffic safety, travel and consumer protection and crime prevention, AMA represents the interests of its members to industry and all levels of government and helps protect the things they care about most. Visit ama.ab.ca to learn more about AMA’s products, services and member advocacy efforts.