As the weather warms and roadsides begin to turn green, motorists in Maine need to be wary of another sign of spring: moose alongside Maine roads.
Moose-vehicle collisions are a problem throughout Maine, and MaineDOT crash data shows that each spring, the frequency of moose-vehicle collisions increases in April and continues to climb until it peaks in mid-June.
According to MaineDOT crash statistics, Maine has averaged over 600 moose vehicle crashes a year over the past ten years. While Maine had no fatalities last year, over the past ten years there have been 22 fatalities as a result of moose-vehicle collisions. Aroostook County sees the highest number of crashes, but crashes can occur anywhere in the state.
MaineDOT recently released an updated poster that details moose and deer collisions. The map compiles the latest three-year crash statistics and plots them on a map of the state. It shows the frequency of accidents in each county, as well as number of crashes by month and time of day. You can view it at http://www.maine.gov/mdot/safetyoffice/maine-crash-data.php. This poster is distributed to schools, motor vehicle registries and town offices.
“Due to a moose’s large size, every moose-vehicle accident has the potential for serious injury,” said Duane Brunell of the MaineDOT Safety Office. “Drivers need to be alert when driving at night, especially in wooded or marshy areas. You need to slow down, scan the roadsides for moose, and always wear your seatbelt.”
In late spring, moose frequent roadways for several reasons. After a long winter of eating poor-quality food, their bodies crave the salt that is found along roadsides. The sides of roads are also the first areas to green up in the spring, offering tender plant shoots as another source of food for moose. And yearling moose, recently forced away by their mothers as the mothers prepare to give birth to this year’s calves, often travel and find themselves around roads.
Nighttime is also primetime for moose-vehicle collisions. The number of moose crashes peaks between 7:00 p.m. and midnight. Moose move more during the evening after it cools from the daytime high temperatures.
During a 3-year period, nearly 2,000 moose collisions occur in Maine, and fatalities occur almost every year.
- Nearly 90% of crashes occur between dusk and dawn.
- Nearly 80% of the crashes occur during hours of darkness.
- 19 of the 22 fatalities over the past 10 years occurred when it was dark.
- The state experiences driver fatalities almost every year due to moose/car collisions.
As a driver, there are several steps you can take to minimize the chance of being involved in a moose-vehicle collision.
- Drivers should reduce their speed when it is dark.
- Use your high beams where it is appropriate.
- Always have everyone buckle up.
- Search the roadway ahead to identify potential problems.
With their dark brown color, moose are difficult to see at night, and because of their height, their eyes do not readily reflect oncoming headlights. They also tend to move in groups. If you see one, slow down, because there may be another; and be on the lookout for tall silhouettes along roadsides.
Remember, moose are everywhere in the state, and they can turn up anywhere. Moose-vehicle collisions occur on the Maine Turnpike as well as the Interstate and Route 1 in northern Maine.
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