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Characteristics of vehicle-animal crashes in which vehicle occupants are killed

Williams, Allan F.; Wells, JoAnn K.
Traffic Injury Prevention (TIP)
March 2005

During the past 10 years almost 1,500 people have been killed in motor vehicle collisions with animals. Police reports on 147 fatal vehicle-animal crashes during 2000-2002 were obtained from nine states. The goal was to determine common crash types, types of animals involved, and steps that could be taken to reduce the crashes and injuries. Seventy-seven percent of the struck animals were deer, but six other types of animals were involved including small ones such as dogs. Eighty percent of the crashes were single-vehicle events. In most of these cases a motorcycle struck an animal and the rider came off the vehicle, or a passenger vehicle struck an animal and then ran off the road; in a few cases the animal went through the windshield. Multiple-vehicle crashes included vehicles striking deer that went through the windshields of oncoming vehicles, vehicles striking animals and then colliding with other vehicles, and vehicles striking animals that subsequently were struck by other vehicles. Crashes occurred primarily in rural areas, on roads with 55 mph or higher speed limits, during evening or nighttime hours, and in darkness. Greater application of deer-vehicle collision countermeasures known to be effective is needed, but it is noteworthy that a majority of fatalities occurred from subsequent collisions with other vehicles or objects, not from animal contacts. Sixty-five percent of motorcyclists killed were not wearing helmets, and 60% of vehicle occupants killed were unbelted; many of these fatalities would not have occurred with proper protection.