As every Alaska driver knows, it's best not to cross paths with a moose when you're barreling down the highway at 50-plus mph. The majestic thousand-pound animals can crumple a car like a tin can.
Alaska is the moose collision capital of the nation. Our state has some of the highest moose-vehicle accident rates in the world. Between 2000 and 2012, there were almost 10,000 collisions statewide. Many occurred in three hotspots: Mat-Su, Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula.
Study may show how to reduce collisions
A new study aims to shed light on moose accidents in Mat-Su. By using radio collars to track the animals' movements, researchers hope to identify concrete ways for reducing the incidence of collisions. When the study is completed in 2019, it may help shape roadway design, speed limits, traffic patterns and other factors that can influence accident rates.
Risk factors for moose collisions
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has identified several factors that contribute to moose-vehicle collisions, including:
- Driving too fast for the conditions
- Distracted driving
- Poor visibility
- Sharp curves
- Narrow roadways
- Dim headlights
Most of these accidents happen in low light during the winter months. In fact, the Mat-Su area averages 1.5 collisions per day during December and January alone.
Snow conditions can also impact accident rates. When there's less snow, moose tend to blend in with their surroundings, making them difficult to spot. On the other hand, too much snow can force the animals onto cleared roadways.
Drivers can reduce their risk of an accident by slowing down, paying attention and keeping their headlights in bright working condition.