(01/13/2012)
South Charleston, W.Va. - Two state agencies and an auto insurance company are collaborating to study deer/vehicle collisions in West Virginia and come up with ways to best reduce their occurrence. The long-term goal of the project is to identify the most effective mitigation technique at the lowest cost, according to Division of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Frank Jezioro and Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Paul Mattox.

Following a legislative audit in 2011, Director Jezioro contacted Secretary Mattox and suggested that their agencies work together to identify the most effective methods for possibly reducing deer-vehicle collisions in West Virginia. The State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company, the nation's largest auto insurer, has provided a major funding source for the study.

The DOT and the DNR are preparing to release a Request for Proposals to hire an independent contractor to begin the initial phase. The first phase will include review of mitigation techniques that have been used throughout the country in efforts to reduce deer/vehicle collisions, conduct a cost/benefit analysis of these techniques and evaluate their potential for use in West Virginia.

This effort will also evaluate deer/vehicle collision data already collected by the DOT, DNR and other agencies with a goal of identifying "hot spots" for these incidents in the state. These "hot spots" would serve as potential locations where appropriate mitigation techniques could be applied and tested during the second phase of the study to reduce deer/vehicle collisions and provide the largest benefit to West Virginians.

"I am especially pleased to note that State Farm Insurance is contributing $50,000 in support of this project," said Director Jezioro. "Both the DNR and the DOT are excited to partner with State Farm on this effort designed to explore options for reducing deer/vehicle collisions in West Virginia. State Farm has tracked deer/vehicle collisions across the United States for years and was very willing to be part of the solution in helping reduce this problem in West Virginia."

"I am thankful for the efforts of our partners in this study, the Division of Natural Resources and State Farm Insurance," said DOT Secretary Mattox. "I hope that study recommendations will be implemented to reduce deer-vehicle collisions and make our roads and highways safer for the travelling public."

Deer-vehicle collisions across the United States, including West Virginia, are a significant transportation safety problem. Deer-vehicle collisions account for a large amount of economic damage and can pose a safety hazard, especially on major highways with higher posted speed limits.

"West Virginia is one of several states where an individual driver is most likely to run into a deer," said State Farm Public Affairs Specialist Erin Bailey. "Our hope is that this project will help reduce those statistics and provide some mitigation for deer-vehicle collisions. State Farm has had a long history of supporting auto safety, and this collaboration with the WVDNR and WVDOT is one more way to protect our customers and those traveling on our West Virginia roads."

Deer-vehicle collisions in West Virginia have been stabilized or reduced in many areas of the state during the past decade; however, the agencies hope to further reduce the number of incidents.

"A number of factors besides the size of the deer population can affect the rate of deer/vehicle collisions within a state or area," said Director Jezioro. "It is necessary to determine which mitigation methods use correct scientific methodology to achieve meaningful results. The elimination of all deer-vehicle collisions in West Virginia is an unrealistic goal. However, we hope to reduce these collisions, especially in areas of higher posted speed limits. Effective mitigation techniques should be cost effective and produce long lasting results."


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