Putting an end to roadkill

Researchers at the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University have helped test and develop an animal-detection system to prevent vehicle crashes with wildlife.

Researchers at the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at MontanaStateUniversity have helped develop and test an animal-detection system to prevent vehicle crashes with wildlife.

The system created by Sensor Technologies & Systems of Scottsdale, Arizona and called the Roadway Animal Detection System (RADS), reliably detected elk on US Highway 191 in YellowstoneNational Park. The system will be evaluated for its effectiveness in reducing animal-vehicle collisions over the next two years.

Using Roadway Animal Detection System (RADS), large animals are detected entering the roadway which automatically triggers the warning device. Drivers are alerted to the presence of animals on the roadway and can react in advance to avoid an accident. Its developers claim the system can detect any size animal from a small deer to a large moose in all weather and light conditions.

The RADS sensor uses Radio Frequencies (RF) and operates by line-of-sight in a single or multiple unit configuration. By connecting multiple units together in a networking arrangement, longer distances or a perimeter can be covered. Continuous coverage over longer distances is obtained by back-to-back networked systems. Curved roadways are handled by the placement of additional sensors to “bend the beam” around the curve.

RADS consists of the sensors (including the communications network and cellular phone capability), power system and warning device. This warning device is a flashing beacon placed at the beginning and half-way points of each mile of the protected roadway. Other warning methods include wireless in-vehicle warning systems.

WTI researchers calculated the average total costs associated with an animal-vehicle collision for three species: $7,890 for deer, $17,100 for elk, and $28,100 for moose. Further calculations showed that animal detection systems could be cost effective. They may pay for themselves at locations that have at least five deer, three elk or two moose collisions per mile per year on average.

In the US, roughly 200 people are killed, more than 15,000 injured and 300,000 vehicles damaged annually from collisions with wildlife and domestic animals, according to federal safety data.