Oct. 2, 2001 Driving with increased caution, including slowing down, during the two hours after sunset may reduce commuters chances of hitting an animal on their way home, according to a new study of car crashes involving moose and deer.
The study of Finnish data was the first to control for variations both in traffic and sunset patterns in order to derive an accurate picture of peak crash periods that occur both at dusk and dawn. It is published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Car collisions with moose and deer began to rise dramatically at the time of sunset, peaking at one hour after sunset. At that peak period, the risk of collision reached levels approximately 30 to 80 times higher than seen throughout the daylight hours, says authors Hannu Haikonen, B.A., and Heikki Summala, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychology at the University of Helsinki.
There was a modest peak in collisions between cars and the animals at dawn, as well. The researchers note that Finnish deer are the descendants of white-tails that were imported from America in 1934.
"For deer, dusk is a period of high activity and may be a stimulus to cross a road or to feed on the right-of-ways. For drivers, dusk is a period of low visibility … the result is an abrupt increase in the crash rate," they say.
They adjusted the time of the collisions to the time of sunset and sunrise for different regions of Finland with an error of less than five minutes. They also calculated traffic volumes based on two 24-hour samples at 54 measurement stations.
The study was funded by the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications.
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, sponsored by the Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine and the American College of Preventive Medicine, is published eight times a year by Elsevier Science. The Journal is a forum for the communication of information, knowledge and wisdom in prevention science, education, practice and policy. For more information about the Journal, contact the editorial office at 619-594-7344.
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