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Study: Accidents seven times more likely in elk-crossing zones

The Finnish Transport Agency advises people to slow down in areas with signage because traffic accident statistics really do support their placement.

Liikennemerkki hirvivaroitus.
Image: Ian Shaw / AOP

A new study examining traffic accidents involving the Eurasian elk and other members of the deer family has determined that many more accidents occur in areas marked with elk-crossing signs in Finland than in other places.

"There is a seven times larger accident-per-100-kilometre rate along stretches of road that are marked with elk-crossing signs. Those warning signs haven't been placed haphazardly; their location has been considered carefully. They should be taken seriously," says Seppo Sarjamo, a traffic safety advisor at the Finnish Transport Agency.

According to traffic statistics, some 1,824 accidents involving members of the deer family took occurred in 2017, a slight decrease on the previous year. Most of the collisions took place in eastern areas of the country. The region with the largest increase in accidents involving elk or deer was Lapland.

Elk are "complete blockheads"

Sarjamo advises motorists to slow down every time they see an elk-crossing sign and watch the trees and bushes growing beside the road carefully. The animals are most active at dusk.

"Use your high-beam lights, keep your windows and windscreen clear, and keep alert for movement on the sides of the road," he says.

Eurasian elk in particular are unpredictable, especially younger individuals who are moving around on their own for the first time. Sarjamo says they can end up in the most surprising places.

"Those animals are complete blockheads; they do whatever they please. During the mating season, one-year-olds can move around quite spontaneously. If an elk is standing beside the road, it could jump out in front of traffic at any time," he says.

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