Animal Vehicle Crash Mitigation Using Advanced Technology Phase I: Review, Design and Implementation
Animal-vehicle collisions affect human safety, property and wildlife. The number of these types of collisions has increased substantially over the last few decades. This report describes the results of a project that explored the prospects for a relatively new mitigation measure to reduce animal-vehicle collisions: animal detection systems. Animal detection systems use ITS to detect large animals when they approach the road and to warn oncoming vehicles of their presence.
The report identifies existing animal detection system technologies and describes the selection of two experimental detection systems and their installation at two field sites:
- US Highway 191, in Yellowstone National Park, Montana. This site stood out because of its national visibility, representative terrain and vegetation (forested hills and mountains), the abundance of large mammals, and its proximity to the office of the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University.
- Highway 22/322, near Thompsontown (northwest of Harrisburg) Pennsylvania (PA). This site ranked high because of the large number of animal-vehicle collisions; controlled access; limited fluctuations of deer populations; relative proximity to the vendor; and the terrain, vegetation and large animals seemed representative for eastern states.
This report documents experiences and lessons learned with planning and design, installation, operation and maintenance, test results on reliability, and user acceptance of animal detection systems.
The process of selecting a vendor should always be one of careful consideration. Because animal detection systems are so new, the level of expertise in this small field varies among vendors. To assure the right animal detection system vendor is selected, it is advisable for agencies to take extra care when selecting a vendor and developing a contract.
- Conduct thorough research when selecting systems and vendors. The animal detection system field has become highly active, requiring agencies to obtain the latest information on the experiences with the individual systems and their vendors, before making a selection. Criteria for system reliability and other parameters should be developed to help with screening systems and vendors. Prequalification criteria may include the following:
- Previous and recent experience in the deployment of ITS equipment in a roadside environment;
- Experience with state and federal regulations regarding the deployment of ITS equipment in a roadside environment;
- Experience with hardware and software integration under environmental conditions that are challenging to high-tech equipment;
- Experience with an engineering approach to a design process and developing system acceptance criteria; and
- Experience with training project partners in the operation and maintenance of ITS equipment and software.
It is additionally important to critically analyze the system requirements for the site concerned. Several factors may dictate what types of technology may or may not be an option, e.g., soil, vegetation, road and right-of-way management, snow accumulation, fog, access to power or phone lines, safety requirements and landscape aesthetics.
- Word vendor contracts in language that is definitive and not open to interpretation. Contracts with vendors should clearly define the basis of payments as associated with deliverables or completed milestones of the project. It is especially important to have clear and quantifiable criteria for system acceptance, perhaps in the form of a checklist (e.g., basic checks on the functioning of the system; a maximum percentage of false positives and false negatives; provision of spare parts). The majority of the payments should not be released until those criteria have been met. Because of potentially long delays before a system becomes operational, the warranty period should not start until the system has become operational, i.e., meets the designated criteria and is accepted by the transportation agency.
It is crucial that when deploying animal detection systems that the vendor is both competent and fully aware of their responsibilities. Given that animal detection systems have yet to be deployed at the national scale, the number of vendors with sufficient expertise is limited as compared with other ITS technologies, making the selection and contracting writing process all the more important.