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Moose on the loose: Peak crash season approaches

Moose and deer are more active in the autumn, and that usually means they cause more road traffic accidents. Yle has pinpointed the areas with the highest incidence of vehicle collisions with moose in Finland. Last year three people were killed in moose-related crashes.

Liikennemerkki hirvivaroitus.
Image: Ian Shaw / AOP

Autumn sees a peak in moose-related traffic accidents in Finland. The number of vehicular collisions with moose and deer has grown in the 2010s, but fortunately very few of the hundreds of incidents have led to personal injury--at least to the vehicle's occupants.

There are more traffic accidents involving moose and deer in the autumn because the animals tend to be on the move. Hunting season begins in September, and many individual moose are also searching for a mate at this time of year.

"On top of that, the autumn means worse traffic conditions and skies growing dark already during periods with heavy traffic," says Jani Körhämö, a game manager at the Finnish Wildlife Agency.

Körhämö says the central regions of the country contains areas with the highest incidence of moose and vehicle collisions.

"The belt with the most activity extends from the coast of Ostrobothnia, through Central Finland, all the way to Southeast Finland. Last year most of the recorded accidents took place in the region of North Savo," Körhämö says.

Moose accidents between 2012-2016: Vaasa
Moose accidents between 2012-2016: Vihti
Moose accidents between 2012-2016: Kärsämäki

Hunting on the rise

In 2016, 1,881 moose-related traffic accidents were reported in Finland, 600 more than in 2011. Three people died and 144 were injured, meaning that people were hurt or killed in just six percent of all incidents.

Vehicle collisions have risen as the population of Eurasian elk (known widely as moose) and white-tailed deer has grown. As a remedy, the authorities have issued one-quarter more hunting permits this year than in years past.

Körhämö says that accidents with deer have become a considerable problem in southwest areas of Finland in particular.

moose accidents in Finland 1993-2016

"Collisions with deer have increased dramatically in recent years, but we are now trying to quell this with enhanced hunting."

Better car safety features save lives

Overall, the situation in terms of driver safety has improved. For two years of the last seven years, for example, no human life was lost in a moose or deer accident.

Traffic watchdog Liikenneturva's director Anna-Liisa Tarvainen attributes the lower death toll to improved car safety.

A poll from Liikenneturva last year suggested that plenty of motorists in Finland have had a close call with moose on the road. Over one-third of respondents to the survey said they have had to slam on the brakes or swerve to avoid a moose or deer on the road in the last three years.

Drivers can't do anything about the number of moose on the road, but they can do several things to improve their safety behind the wheel. Tarvainen says motorists would do well to pay heed to the moose crossing signs posted along the roads.

Moose accidents 2012-2016: Time of day

"Slow down when you see a warning sign because the speed at which you are driving has a big effect. Dropping to 80 km/hr on a 100 km/hr road brings great benefit, because the higher the speed, the more serious the aftermath of an accident," she says.

Be most careful after things get dark

The most typical moose-vehicle collision in Finland typically takes place on a two-lane motorway in the late evening or early morning.

"The time of day in which the risk is greatest is about an hour after sunset," says Tarvainen.

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