Skip to contentUnited States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration FHWA Home
Research Home
Report
This report is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-08-034
Date: August 2008

Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Reduction Study: Report To Congress

PDF Version (2.92 MB)

PDF files can be viewed with the Acrobat® Reader®

Chapter 3. Economic Impacts of Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions

This chapter describes the costs associated with WVCs. It focuses on impacts that can be converted to monetary values. There are other impacts associated with WVCs that may not be easily quantifiable. Nonetheless, the cost estimates that are presented are an important component in justifying potential mitigation measures to reduce WVCs.

Methods

Western Transportation Institute (WTI) researchers estimated the costs for WVCs in two ways. First, they estimated the costs for the average WVC based on property damage, human injuries and human fatalities. Secondly, they estimated the costs for species-specific WVCs for deer, elk, and moose-vehicle collisions (Alces alces). For this second analysis, the parameters included were vehicle repair costs, costs associated with human injuries and fatalities, towing, accident attendance and investigation, the monetary value of the animal that was killed in the collision (based on hunting fees and other recreational values), and the cost of disposal of the animal carcass.

Average ANIMAL-Vehicle Collision

The total estimated cost of the average AVC based on property damage, human injuries, and human fatalities is $6,126 (table 4). More than 95 percent of all AVCs result in property damage only (table 4), at an average cost over all collisions of $2,451. While human injuries and fatalities occur in less than 5 percent of all collisions, their associated costs per collision are substantially higher, driving up the cost of the average AVC to the $6,126 value.

For the analyses described above, 1994 USDOT estimates of motor vehicle accident costs were used, corrected for the Gross Domestic Product Deflator through the fourth quarter in 2006.(66,67) The 1994 USDOT cost estimates relate to all types of motor vehicle accidents, including, but not exclusively, AVCs. The severity categories for human injuries, including a "possible human injury" are based on police reports at the scene of the accident. The 1994 USDOT cost estimates factor in that some of these "possible human injuries" later show to be injuries indeed, while others are not. The distribution of AVCs across the maximum severity categories is based on the data presented in figure 9 in chapter 2 of this report and specifically relates to AVCs.

Table 4. Estimated costs for property damage, human injuries, and human fatalities for the average AVC.
Maximum Severity Cost ($) Distribution of Collisions (%) Contribution to Cost of Average AVC ($)
Property damage only 2,570 95.37 2,451
Possible human injury 24,418 2.34 572
Evident human injury 46,266 1.75 809
Incapacitating/severe human injury 231,332 0.47 1,083
Human fatality 3,341,468 0.04 1,210
Total   1.00 6,126

 

Deer-, Elk-, and Moose-Vehicle Collisions

Based on a review of the literature, the probability that a collision with a deer, elk, or moose would result in property damage, a human injury, and a human fatality was estimated. In addition, estimates were made of the amount of property damage (vehicle repair costs) as a result of a collision with these three species.

The species-specific cost estimates were made using the same base cost estimates and categories for human injuries as in table 4. Since it was not possible to distinguish among the three injury categories when calculating the species-specific probabilities that a collision would result in a human injury, the relative frequency of each of the three injury categories was determined using the values in table 4. This approach produced the following values: 51.4 percent of all human injuries involved possible human injuries, 38.4 percent of all human injuries involved evident human injuries, and 10.3 percent of all human injuries involved incapacitating or severe human injuries.

Vehicle Repair Costs

In Nova Scotia, the percentage of collisions involving white-tailed deer that resulted in property damage was estimated at 90.2 percent—3,524 collisions with property damage out of 3,905 collisions.(68) In Utah this percentage was estimated at 94 percent.(3) There were no similar data available for elk or moose. For this analysis the percentage of collisions resulting in property damage was assumed to be 92 percent for collisions with deer, 100 percent for collisions with elk, and 100 percent for collisions with moose. Property damage (repair costs for vehicles) has been estimated by a number of studies:

  • Romin and Bissonette estimated the value at $1,200 ($1,881 for deer in Utah and Vermont) in 1992.(3)

  • In British Columbia, the costs for deer collisions with passenger vehicles were estimated at Can$1,222.(69)

  • The cost for deer collisions on average for different regions in the United States in 1993 were estimated at $1,577.(4)

  • In New Mexico, the average vehicle repair cost of an elk-vehicle collision was estimated at $3,448, based on seven collisions.(70)

  • Vehicle repair costs resulting from a collision with a moose in north central British Columbia can be as high as Can$25,000, but they averaged Can$5,150 in 1999.(71)

  • In British Columbia, the estimated average claim for a DVC was Can$1,222 and a moose-vehicle collision was Can$3,358.(69)

  • Other studies in British Columbia estimated moose-vehicle collisions at Can$2,200 in 2000 and Can$2,800 in 2001.(68,72)

  • An average value of $2,300 was reported for the United States in 2002.(73)

Based on these various values, it was assumed for this analysis that the average vehicle repair costs as a result of AVCs were $2,000 for deer, $3,000 for elk, and $4,000 for moose. Combined with the percentage chance that a collision indeed results in property damage (see earlier), the vehicle repair costs for an average AVC with each species were estimated at $1,840 (deer), $3,000 (elk), and $4,000 (moose).

Human Injuries

AVCs can cause human injuries. (See references 4, 15, 29, 68, and 74.) In the United States, AVCs were estimated to result in 26,647 human injuries per year (average for 2001–2002).(15) An estimated 22,498 of these human injuries resulted from collisions with larger animals, mostly with deer (86.9 percent). An estimated 12.2 percent were the result of collisions with horses (Equussp.) and bovines (Bossp.). Elk, moose, and bear (Ursussp.) accounted for the remaining 0.8 percent.(15)

The percentage of white-tailed deer-vehicle collisions resulting in human injuries was estimated at 1.3 percent in Finland; 3.8 percent in the U.S. Midwest; 4 percent in Ohio, 4 percent across the U.S., 7.7 percent in Ohio; and 9.7 percent in Nova Scotia. (See references 4, 53, 62, 68, and 75.)

The percentage of moose-vehicle collisions resulting in human injuries was estimated at 9.9 percent in Finland, 11.2 percent in Sweden, 18 percent in Newfoundland and Labrador, 21.8 percent in Newfoundland, 23 percent in Maine (figure 11 , chapter 2), 20 percent in rural Alaska, and 23 percent in Anchorage, AK. (See references 68, 75, 76, 77, 78, and 79.) The ratio of moose-vehicle collisions to human injuries was estimated at 1: 0.201 in Newfoundland and 1: 0.304 in Anchorage, AK.(79,80) The ratios are higher than the percentages, because more than one person may be present in a car, and multiple people may be injured as a result of one collision. For this analysis it was assumed that an AVC resulted in an average of 0.05 human injuries for deer, 0.10 human injuries for elk, and 0.20 human injuries for moose. When these proportions are combined with the relative frequency for each of the three injury categories (51.4 percent for possible human injuries, 38.4 percent for evident human injuries, and 10.3 percent for incapacitating or severe human injuries), it results in the cost estimates for human injuries by species presented in table 5. The costs of human injuries by species type are $2,702 (deer), $5,403 (elk), and $10,807 (moose) for each collision. Note that the costs in table 4 and table 5 cannot be directly compared. The costs in table 4 are for all AVCs, regardless of the species, while the costs in table 5 relate to specific wildlife species. In addition, for table 4 the chances that a reported AVC results in a human injury are based on GES data (table 8), while for table 5 these chances are based on a species-specific review of the literature.

Table 5. Costs for types of human injuries for the
average deer-, elk-, and moose-vehicle collision.
Type of Human Injury Deer Elk Moose
Possible $627 $1,254 $2,508
Evident $887 $1,775 $3,550
Incapacitating/severe $1,187 $2,374 $4,749
Total $2,702 $5,403 $10,807

Human Fatalities

While rare, AVCs can cause human fatalities. (See references 4, 13, 68, and 74.) The percentage of white-tailed deer-vehicle collisions resulting in human fatalities was estimated at 0.009 percent in Ohio (14 collisions with human fatalities from 143,016 collisions), 0.029 percent in North America, 0.03 percent in the U.S. Midwest (33 collisions with human fatalities from 125,608 collisions), and 0.05 percent in Nova Scotia (2 collisions with human fatalities from 3,905 collisions).(53,62,68)

White-tailed deer are the most common species involved in fatal WVCs. A study that used data from nine states ( Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin) showed that 77 percent of these fatal accidents involved white-tailed deer.(13)

The percentage of moose-vehicle collisions resulting in human fatalities was estimated at 0 percent in Anchorage, AK (0 fatalities from 519 collisions), 0.26 percent in Newfoundland (14 fatalities from 5422 collisions), 0.36 percent in Newfoundland (6 collisions with human fatalities from 1662 collisions), 0.45 percent in Newfoundland (3 fatalities from 661 collisions), 0.43 percent in Maine (figure 11, chapter 2); 0.5 percent in Sweden, and 0.50 percent in rural Alaska. (See references 8, 68, 76, 78, 79, and 80.)

For this analysis it was assumed that an AVC resulted in an average of 0.0005 (deer), 0.0020 (elk), and 0.0040 (moose) human fatalities. When these proportions are combined with the cost listed in table 4, it results in a cost estimate for human fatalities of $1,671 (deer), $6,683 (elk), and $13,366 (moose) for each collision. Note that these estimates cannot be directly compared with those in table 4. The costs in table 4 are for all AVCs, regardless of the species, while the cost estimates in this paragraph relate to specific wildlife species. In addition, for table 4 the chances that a reported AVC results in a human fatality are based on GES data (table 8), while the chances for the cost estimates in this paragraph are based on a species-specific review of the literature.

Towing, Accident Attendance, and Investigation

Not all WVCs require the towing of a vehicle and attendance or investigation by medical personnel, fire department personnel, or police. When they do, the cost for these efforts was estimated to vary between Can$100 and 550.(69) Note that the cost for the actual medical assistance is included in the cost estimates for human injuries calculated earlier. For this analysis it was assumed that the cost of towing and accident attendance or investigation is $500, but these services are only required in 25 percent (deer), 75 percent (elk), and 100 percent (moose) of the collisions. These assumptions result in an average cost for towing, accident attendance, and investigation of $125 (deer), $375 (elk), and $500 (moose) per AVC.

Monetary Value of Animals

Animals usually die immediately or shortly after having been hit by a vehicle. In Michigan, Allen and McCullough estimated that a minimum of 91.5 percent of all white-tailed deer that were hit by a vehicle died at the scene or shortly thereafter.(81) In Newfoundland, 88.5 percent of all moose collisions resulted in the death of the animal (4,800 moose fatalities out of 5,422 collisions). For this analysis, it was assumed that an AVC always resulted in the eventual death of the animal, regardless of the species.

The monetary value of wildlife has many different components, including license fees, costs associated with hunting (e.g., materials, transport, lodging, meals), and recreational wildlife viewing. Hunting license fees in British Columbia were Can$15–125 for deer, Can$25–200 for elk, and Can$25–200 for moose, for residents and non-residents, respectively.(72) The net return to the economy of British Columbia from hunting was estimated at Can$1,270–7,450 for deer, Can$3,250–3,290 for elk, and Can$1,250–1,680 for moose.(72) The total net return to the economy of British Columbia from recreational wildlife viewing was estimated at Can$174,000,000 per year.(72) There were an estimated 681,000 large mammals present in British Columbia, including black bears (Ursus americanus), grizzly bears (Ursus arctos), caribou (Rangifer tarandus), mule deer, and black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hermionus columbianus), white-tailed deer, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis).(72) From this information, an average value for recreational wildlife viewing per large mammal was estimated at Can$255.

In New Mexico, the minimum estimated income to the state as a result of hunting was estimated at $250 for each deer and $500 for each elk, excluding hunter expenditures and associated economic benefits.(70) In Utah, Romin and Bissonette estimated the economic value of a deer at $1,313 in 1992.(3) Bissonette and Hammer estimated the value of deer in Utah in 1999 at $2,420.(82) Based on this information, it was assumed that the total monetary value of each animal was $2,000 (deer), $3,000 (elk) and $2,000 (moose).

Removal and Disposal Costs of Deer Carcasses

In Canada, the clean-up, removal, and disposal costs for animal carcasses were estimated at Can$100 for deer, Can$350 for elk, and Can$350 for moose.(72) In Pennsylvania, the average for deer carcass removal and disposal in a certified facility was $30.50 per deer for contractors and $52.46 per deer for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in 2003–2004 (Jon Fleming, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, personal communication). For this analysis, it was assumed that the removal and disposal costs of animal carcasses were $50 (deer), $100 (elk), and $100 (moose).

Other Costs

Examples of costs that are not easily quantifiable and that were excluded from these analyses are the costs associated with emotional distress of people involved in WVCs, the expenses involved with conservation efforts for threatened or endangered species, the costs of the distress of injured animals, the costs associated with the rehabilitation of injured animals, and the cost of cultural values impacted by wounded animals (e.g., native Americans or other groups in society). Wildlife rehabilitators in Connecticut estimated that 36 percent of all reptiles and amphibians, 6 percent of all birds, and 12 percent of all mammals admitted to wildlife rehabilitation centers in Connecticut between 1996 through 2005 suffered from wounds inflicted by vehicles (Laurie Fortin, State of Connecticut, Department of Environmental Protection, personal communication). The total number of individuals (all species groups combined) that suffered from wounds inflicted by vehicles was 896 per year. At an average cost of $150–200 per individual medical examination and treatment (visits to veterinarian, X-rays, medication, etc.), the yearly wildlife rehabilitation costs in Connecticut are estimated at $134,400–179,200 (Laura Simon, Connecticut Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, personal communication).

Summary

The cost of WVCs is summarized in table 6. Bear in mind that this analysis is based on a series of assumptions and estimates that may need to be modified as more and better data become available. A national estimate of vehicle collisions with moose or elk is unavailable. However, based on a total estimate of one million DVCs per year in the United States, the estimated total cost associated with WVCs is calculated to be $8,388,000,000 (per year in the United States). Note that collisions with smaller animal species (smaller than deer) and domesticated species (e.g. livestock) were not included in this calculation.

 

Table 6. Summary of estimated costs of a WVC for a deer, elk, and moose.
Description Deer Elk Moose
Vehicle repair costs per collision $1,840 $3,000 $4,000
Human injuries per collision $2,702 $5,403 $10,807
Human fatalities per collision $1,671 $6,683 $13,366
Towing, accident attendance and investigation $125 $375 $500
Monetary value animal per collision $2,000 $3,000 $2,000
Carcass removal and disposal per collision $50 $100 $100
Total $8,388 $18,561 $30,773

Previous | Table of Contents | Next

ResearchFHWA
FHWA
United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration