Conference Proceeding

Impact of COVID-19 on Traffic, Crashes, and Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions

Across the US, mitigation of the spread of COVID-19 included “shelter-in-place” (SIP) orders and related actions, implemented by cities, counties, and governors’ offices. These orders resulted in a massive drop in traffic volumes and provided an unprecedented opportunity to measure the effect of reduced traffic on crashes, including collisions involving wildlife. For California, the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis processes and compiles real-time traffic incidents from California Highway Patrol reports, using a web-accessible database.

Wildlife-Responsive Crossing Design

Wildlife habitat is fragmented by transportation systems, a legacy of land-use and a continuing, often un-mitigated impact of transportation. The primary tools to reduce these impacts are discretionary projects to construct “wildlife crossing structures” (WCS) and associated fencing. Although WCS are relied upon to mitigate impacts to wildlife, little attention is paid to animal responses to noise and artificial light at night in designing these structures and the approaches to them.

Decision-support for evaluating and improving wildlife crossing of transportation corridors

Existing transportation and linear conveyance (e.g., aqueducts, pipelines) already bisect blocks of otherwise intact habitat for species at all levels, inhibiting movement and genetic flow in some cases. Often for decades. There is an evolving toolbox equipped with many measures to minimize and mitigated the effects, but little consistent evaluation of the “who, what, why, and where” of implementation and management of the tools.

Rapid Detection and Identification of Roadside Wildlife using CCTV with Artificial-Intelligence

Wildlife-vehicle conflict poses injury/mortality risks to both drivers and wildlife. Roadside Animal Detection Systems (RADS) are being developed and deployed to detect animals near or on roads and warn drivers to reduce speed and increase attentiveness. Animal detection systems include video/still camera, Radar, thermal imaging, and advanced Light Detection and Range (LiDAR) sensors. Cameras/video systems provide validation information for other sensor types and are sensors in their own right.

Smart and automated web-services to analyze wildlife image data

Wildlife camera traps are essential equipment when monitoring animal movement and occupancy in a region or near infrastructure-crossing structures. Large arrays of cameras (dozens to hundreds) result in large numbers (hundreds of thousands) of images, especially when any vegetation or traffic are in the camera view. Rapidly and accurately processing images through most workflows can involve a lot of staff time and potentially result in transcription and other errors.

Climate and Fiscal Impacts from Reduced Fuel Use during COVID-19 Mitigation

In California and other US states, mitigation of the spread of COVID-19 has been implemented by cities, counties, and governors’ offices through “shelter-in-place” and “stay-at-home” orders and related actions (e.g., closure of non-essential businesses). There were several important impacts of government shelter-in-place order on traffic volumes, which in turn had impacts on fuel-use and greenhouse emissions. For all US states, I compared estimated traffic activity (vehicle miles traveled, VMT) before and after stay-at-home guidance.

The “Wildlife Crossing Calculator” -- Economic Analysis Decision-Support for Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Reduction

Roads and traffic are a primary cause for habitat and genetic fragmentation, wildlife mortality, and reduced wildlife population resilience to climate change (Laurance et al. 2014; Brady and Richardson 2017; Seo et al. 2015; Bíl et al. 2017). Wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVC) can result in hazards, injury and death to drivers, injury and death of wildlife, and fragmentation of wildlife populations. State Departments of Transportation, wildlife agencies and others use evidence of WVC and other data to support decisions about WVC mitigation.

Automated harvesting and display of WVC and crash data in California

Animal observation data on and near roads are critical to understanding wildlife vehicle conflict (WVC). The California Highway Patrol (CHP), which helps to monitor and maintain safety on California roads, also report incidents of “animal hazards”, “live or dead animal” and crashes involving animals, providing a continuous source of WVC records. These incidents often include collisions with mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), which pose serious risks during collisions due to their large size. CHP report their observations in real-time through their own public-facing web-system.