Study Objective: To develop a wildlife and roadway interactions awareness campaign to assess driver knowledge and behavior related to wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs) and assess campaign efficacy in increasing driver awareness and behavior modification.
Background: Current wildlife-roadway mitigation efforts aimed at preventing WVCs and reducing habitat fragmentation using wildlife crossings and fencing are very effective at reducing WVCs but primarily focus on the wildlife behavior component of WVCs (e.g., crossings, fencing) and do not always focus on the driver behavior component. These efforts are not fully addressing the intrinsic driver behavior component of WVCs, which is likely an important influencing factor in causation of WVCs and WVC prevention. Multiple driver surveys conducted in North America have revealed that at least 1 in 3 drivers are uncertain how to react to wildlife on roadways and how to prevent WVCs and at least 80 percent want better education on the subject (State Farm 2017). This exemplifies the need for increased efforts aimed at driver education and awareness on WVCs and underscores the need to expand and further research such efforts. Behavioral evaluations of road safety behavior are critical to informing countermeasures used to save lives on our roadways (Nichols et al. 2008). This project proposal intends to educate drivers through local media campaigns regarding local species-specific wildlife behaviors when encountering roadways, signage descriptions and the meaning behind signage, and evidence-based avoidance maneuvers or preventative driving behaviors when approaching wildlife high volume areas. Surveys will be developed and distributed to inform media campaigns. Media campaigns will be supported by enforcement of area speed limits, including limits that have been lowered due to high wildlife volume in the area and other risky driving behaviors including: aggressive driving, impaired-driving, and distracted driving. An enforcement component is a vital component of the effectiveness equation when implementing these countermeasures. Typically, high-visibility enforcement efforts are used in this regard.
Projected outcomes: identify road user perceptions, beliefs, and self-reported behavior regarding wildlife in the roadway and WVCs; identify target areas where improved awareness, response, and behavior is needed; identify cost-effective design and methods that can improve public awareness; inform factors which will facilitate adaptive management of driver awareness campaigns; identify effective and efficient measures to reduce wildlife serious injuries and fatal crashes.