Motorists, particularly in rural areas, often must be mindful of wildlife in or near roadways. However, avoiding animal-vehicle collisions (AVCs) is not always easy. In 2011, there were about 1 million vehicle-deer collisions alone in the United States and 10 percent of AVCs resulted in human injury.
Historically mitigating AVCs has involved fencing or road design improvements. But fencing can disrupt wildlife migration and fragment habitat. Within the last decade, however, engineers have developed Animal Detection Systems (ADS) that can detect the presence of animals crossing the road and warn drivers. One type of these systems utilizes buried cables to detect the presence of animals crossing the road. If the system detects an animal crossing the road, the system activates an on-road, flashing sign to warn drivers of the animal crossing the road.
To understand the effectiveness of ADS under real-world conditions, a research team from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, in collaboration with Virginia DOT and Virginia Transportation Research Council, installed a Buried Cable Animal Detection System (BCADS) along a major road in Christiansburg, Virginia. The team selected the site based on a history of recorded deer activity. The team then collected data from the system about reported animal crossings and used camera footage to verify if the system detected a valid animal crossing. The team also used radar speed monitoring to understand if the system altered driver behavior.
According to the results of this real-world deployment, the system:
- The system reliably detected approximately 99 percent of large animal crossings with few false negatives when properly installed and calibrated
- 80 percent of drivers slowed down in response to a flashing animal crossing sign
BCADS appear to be an effective way to mitigate animal-vehicle collisions.