WYDOT will study nighttime speed limit reduction
by Wyoming Department of Transportation
September 20, 2016
WYDOT will begin the first of a few studies on the effectiveness of nighttime speed limit reductions on wildlife vehicle collisions in parts of Western Wyoming.
Wyoming continues to struggle with wildlife collisions every year on local highways and byways. Wildlife-vehicle collisions pose a serious problem to society with regard to human safety, wildlife mortality, habitat connectivity, and financial costs. In Wyoming, an average of 2,228 wildlife vehicle collisions were reported over the last three years, accounting for 15 percent of all reported collisions. These collisions often result in significant damage to vehicles, injure their occupants and are almost always lethal to the animal.
Mule deer account for more than 85 percent of all wildlife-vehicle collisions in Wyoming. WYDOT’s estimated costs per reported collision are $11,600 in injury and property damage costs and $4,000 in the unclaimed restitution value for each deer that is killed. Taken together, deer-vehicle collisions alone total approximately $24-29 million per year in Wyoming in injury and damage costs and an additional $20-23 million per year in wildlife costs (not including the potentially much higher number of actual lost deer since not all carcasses are retrieved).
In an effort to seek a cost-effective solution to combat these wildlife collisions, WYDOT is investigating the use of nighttime speed limit reductions. WYDOT will be conducting studies on specific stretches of state highways that have been statistically noted for their higher rate of wildlife vehicle collisions with deer.
"Ensuring a highway is safe involves mitigating, to the extent practical, hazards that exist within the right-of-way; in many areas of the state, this includes the presence of wildlife. Additionally, WYDOT recognizes the value of wildlife to the State of Wyoming both from a monetary and a resource perspective," District Engineer Keith Compton said.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation's Programming Research Advisory Committee has approved funding to study the effectiveness of nighttime speed limits on several stretches of highway in Western Wyoming. The first of these sections will be a 15-mile stretch of US 191 just south of Boulder to Pinedale.
"WYDOT plans to use the results of this study to help guide decisions on implementation of night time speeds in the future. We are looking at areas in which wildlife migration is evident as well as core winter range areas. The study should help us to know if the speed reduction is a viable alternative and in which situations it is most effective," Compton said.
Other areas will follow, including:
US 189 from La Barge to Big Piney, 23 miles
US 189 South near Lazeart Junction, 16 miles
US 30 from Kemmerer heading West, 10 miles
US 30 near Cokeville, 3 miles
US 191/189 near Warren Bridge, North of Daniel Junction, 7 miles
US 89 North of Evanston, 10 miles
Researchers will be taking into account seasonal migration patterns, driver behaviors and driver compliance with speeds. The study will take place over a period of three years, beginning this fall with the segment south of Pinedale.
"WYDOT is committed to doing this study correctly so that the results show the level to which the treatment was successful. The benefit here is that, if shown to be effective, this will be another tool in our toolbox to use to decrease wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve overall safety for the driver and animal," Compton said.
WYDOT is performing a similar study on WYO 390 near Jackson. That study will be finalized next spring.
WYDOT urges motorists to be conscientious of wildlife, obey all traffic signs and speed regulations and take extra precautions at night, being careful not to out-drive your head lights. For more information on road construction, closures and weather conditions, please visit http://www.wyoroad.info.