Friday, September 23, 2016

'Watch Out for Wildlife Week' Puts Spotlight on Safety

Be alert when driving in areas frequented by wildlife, and reduce your speed so you can react safely. This sign is on
State Route 23 in the city of Thousand Oaks in Caltrans District 7.

Watch out! Every year, drivers collide with wildlife in California and across the U.S., sometimes with tragic results for motorists, their passengers and the animals too.

Sept. 18-24, 2016, is Watch Out for Wildlife Week, the fourth week of September, when the spotlight focuses on ways for drivers to avoid such tragic incidents.

The Watch Out for Wildlife campaign is supported by Caltrans, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the nonprofit organization Defenders of Wildlife, and the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis.

“We urge motorists to remain alert and be cautious when traveling through wildlife areas, so our roadways will remain as safe as possible,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

“Drivers can really make a difference in avoiding wildlife collisions, simply by being aware while driving and watching for wildlife crossing signs,” Dougherty added.

According to Defenders of Wildlife, a national organization dedicated to protecting native species and their natural communities, between 725,000 and 1.5 million wildlife-vehicle collisions occur in the U.S. every year, resulting in more than 200 human fatalities. In California, between eight and 10 drivers and as many as 20,000 deer die in wildlife-vehicle collisions each year.

“Between now and December, deer and other wildlife are highly susceptible to vehicle collisions,” said Marc Kenyon, manager of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's human-wildlife conflict program.

“Deer will soon start their annual migrations to winter range, bucks will be preoccupied competing for mates, and bears will be searching for food in preparation for hibernation,” Kenyon explained. “Such natural behaviors can lead these animals into the way of unsuspecting drivers. Drivers can prevent collisions with animals by being careful and paying attention.”

Wildlife experts associated with the Watch Out for Wildlife campaign offer the following tips for motorists:

Be especially alert when driving in areas frequented by wildlife, and reduce your speed so you can react safely. Increase your following distance between you and other cars.

Pay particular attention when driving during the morning and evening, as wildlife are most active during these times.

If you see an animal cross the road, know that another may be following.

Don’t litter. The odors may entice animals to venture near roadways.

Your car is not a natural predator and the animal does not know to get out of your way. Even if an animal sees you, it may still jump in front of your car.

If an animal crosses safely in front of your car, proceed with caution because it may turn and try to cross back.

Be especially careful if you are on a motorcycle. About 2 percent of deer-car collisions result in human fatalities, but most deer-motorcycle collisions involve human fatalities.

Pay attention to both sides of the road by scanning from side to side. If you have passengers, ask them to help you keep an eye out for animals.

Follow the rules of safe driving. Distracted driving, such as driving while talking on your cell phone, text messaging or chatting with passengers is even more dangerous in wildlife areas.

As always, make sure you and your passengers wear seatbelts.