If you’ve ever been in a wildlife-vehicle collision, you know they not only put a dent in your fender, they can put a big dent in your wallet. A recent study calculated the average total costs associated with collisions with three species: $6,617 per collision for deer, $17,483 for elk and $30,760 for moose. OUCH! The insurance industry estimates that Americans spend over $1 billion dollars per year in property damage due to wildlife-vehicle collisions.
But did you know you pay for accidents with wildlife, even if you’ve never been in one? Wildlife-vehicle collisions consume resources from law enforcement, emergency services, road maintenance crews and wildlife management personnel – so we ALL pay for them (even if you don’t own a car!). The best estimate of the total annual costs to society associated with wildlife-vehicle collisions is nearly $8.4 billion.
With our country’s current recession, we can’t afford to throw money away. We also need to create jobs. So I’m proposing a Recession Roadkill Stimulus program. It’s a two pronged plan to save money, save lives and save wildlife.
First, what if we could keep that $8.4 billion per year in American pockets? Even one unfortunate run-in with a deer not only costs working Americans thousands in repairs and medical costs, but could leave them without their only means of transportation to their job. By reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions, we decrease the financial burden on the hundreds of thousands of families every year.
Second, in order to keep wildlife and cars from crossing paths, we need to build wildlife crossings that allow animals to pass safely under or over roads. They can move around to find food, mates and shelter without having to step onto the pavement. And what does the planning, designing, building and installing these structures mean? Jobs!
In his State of the Union address, President Obama said to rebuild America, we need to put “more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges.” His 2009 American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided $26.6 billion for transportation projects. What if we had spent just 2 percent of that on reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions? That’s $532 million – more than $10 million per state. According to a recent study, every $10 million committed to ARRA highway projects produced 24,000 job hours. Not too shabby!
Congress is expected to work on a new highway bill over the next few months. Defenders and our partners will be asking for provisions to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and we will need them to hear your voices loud and clear. Together, we can put a dent in wildlife-vehicle collisions.