According to the Center For Native Ecosystems, there are 725,000 to 1.5 million animal-vehicle collisions resulting in over 200 human deaths, 29,000 human injuries and more than $8 billion in costs each year in the United States. Legislators, the public, and wildlife advocates alike are looking for ways to make highways safer for both drivers and wildlife. On June 9th Colorado Governor Ritter signed a progressive bill toward that end; HB 1238, the Wildlife Crossing Zones Traffic Safety Bill.
According to the Bill, the state will reduce speed limits in areas where animal and vehicle collisions are likely to occur. But how do they identify those areas? Using GIS, of course.
In fact, the Center for Native Ecosystems employed the Corridor Design least-cost corridor modeling tool in an innovative fashion. They used an Animal Vehicle Collision dataset from the Colorado State Patrol to perform a number of statistical tests to validate the effectiveness of the modeled corridors. The results will be presented at the upcoming Society for Conservation GIS conference, July 8th to 11th in Monterey, California. In the meantime, the research has driven legislation to reduce speed limits within the identified wildlife corridor areas and is currently being incorporated into Colorado's State Wildlife Action Plan.