Accidents in Finland seven times more likely in elk-crossing zones, says study

Accidents are seven times more likely to occur in stretches of road marked with elk-crossing signs, according to a study. (Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images)
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.

Unpredictable animals

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.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Gov cancels caribou hunt in Northwestern Canada following First Nation’s complaints, CBC News

Finland: Spot a reindeer while driving? Tap the app! Yle News

Norway: Norwegian «slow TV» follows reindeer herd to the coast of the Barents Sea, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russia plans fenced parks to confine reindeer herding in Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Roads deadly for reindeer in Arctic Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Northwest Alaska caribou herd may finally be growing after steep decline, Alaska Dispatch News

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