The Road Safety Monitor (RSM) is a unique, annual public opinion survey that takes the pulse of the nation on key traffic safety issues and tracks changes in behaviours, attitudes, and, opinions of Canadians by means of a telephone and on-line survey of a random, representative sample of Canadian drivers. In 2014, as part of a larger project to better inform researchers and practitioners and to help educate the public, TIRF collected data on self-reported driver behaviour in relation to collisions and near misses with wildlife on the road. Additionally, respondents were asked to report what they thought drivers should do when they encounter an animal on the road. Given Canada’s expansive natural rural environments and integration of nature with urban areas, interactions between drivers and wildlife on the road are one of many concerns for road safety researchers and practitioners alike. Unfortunately, data on wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs) that could help improve knowledge on this issue are substantially limited due to various factors such as under-reporting or inconsistent data collection across jurisdictions.
Drivers reported hitting or almost hitting small animals and deer most frequently. The survey revealed that only one-third of Canadians think that the safest response to wildlife in the pathway of their vehicle is to slow down and steer straight. Equally concerning, approximately the same proportion of Canadians think they should swerve which is dangerous and increases crash risk. Overall, knowledge about safe practices in relation to wildlife on the road is low, and the survey results revealed a clear need to improve driver education about responding to wildlife to help reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.
In response to this need, TIRF created the Wildlife Roadsharing Resource Centre (WRRC, www.wildliferoadsharing.tirf.ca) in partnership with Desjardins Insurance. The WRRC provides evidence-based research and expert advice on road safety related to WVCs, dispels misconceptions, and provides various online resources to help improve public knowledge.