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Auto, wildlife collisions creating traffic concerns

Road-killed deer and other wildlife dot the shoulders of U.S. Highway 6. Wildlife-vehicle collisions are common highway incidents.

It's relatively difficult for motorists to travel between Price and Helper without seeing one or more road-killed deer lying next to the highway. It's even more difficult for Carbon County residents to travel on U.S. Highway 6 without counting a handful of dead wildlife.

Most local motorists have hit a deer or elk or know a driver who has. But there is no simple way to resolve the problem, pointed out the Utah Division of Wildlife Services.

Highway alterations, fencing and deer crossing accommodations cost millions of dollars for short distances. The cost of re-configuring hundreds of miles of state roads, where wildlife-vehicle collisions occur, is staggering.

For the individual motorist, the best defense is exercising vigilance while traveling along the highways, advised the DWR. People should keep a sharp look-out for anything in or near the road and drive at or below the posted speed limit.

In high deer-use areas, slower traveling vehicles have a better chance of avoiding accidents involving wildlife, continued the local DWR office.

Motor vehicle operators should reduce traveling speeds on curves, where a driver's vision is obstructed and animals can appear on the road suddenly without warning.

At night, motorists should be alert for "eye shine," advised the division of wildlife resources. Animals' eyes reflect light and seem to glow in the dark. When drivers see a pair of reflective spots, they should beware.

In addition, motorists should be aware that reflective tape on road markers can impair a driver's ability to identify an animal.

Another good night driving strategy is to watch for interruptions in the lights from oncoming traffic, added the division of wildlife services. A dark "blip" signals some type of obstruction. The blip could be an elk or deer crossing the road.

Every traffic accident or near collision is unique and requires split-second decision-making, explained the division of wildlife resources. If motorists realize they are about to hit a deer, they should brake hard until the last second and then let up on the pedal. Braking causes the front end of a motor vehicle to dip. Releasing the brake pedal allows the vehicle to level before impact. The driving strategy reduces the chance of having a deer come through the windshield.

For elk, moose, horses and cattle, different driving strategies should be considered, advised the division of wildlife services. Hitting a large animal dramatically increases the chance for serious injury or death of vehicle occupants. If there's a safe way to avoid a collision, drivers should do so.

The road's shoulder and easement make suitable escape routes in some circumstances. The evasive maneuver can be hazardous, however, if the motorist loses control of the vehicle. Rolling or somersaulting a car down an embankment is deadly. Colliding with a large stationary object is no better. Another alternative might be passing the animal by moving into the left or opposite lane of traffic. But in doing so, drivers should not risk hitting or cutting off another vehicle. Such moves can lead to head-on collisions that are often fatal.

When motorists hit an animal, they should steer vehicles off the road as soon as possible to avoid a secondary collision, noted the division of wildlife services. Drivers should then call 911 and advise the public safety dispatcher of the accident and its location.

If safety and physical abilities permit, motorists should move the animal to the side of the road. In the interest of public safety sake, people should report any dead animals they see on the road that may pose a hazard to traffic, concluded the division of wildlife services.

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