California may have more than its fair share of vegans, but the state’s highways aren’t nearly as animal-friendly.
The Golden State sees more than 7,000 incidents of vehicle collisions or near misses with wildlife every year, according to a study released recently by the University of California, Davis. And that number just accounts for state-operated roads.
Combining calculations with Allstate Insurance Co., the study predicts that as many as 23,000 total incidents may have taken place in the state between 2015 and 2016, at a total cost of more than $500 million in insurance claims and other expenses.
And that number is on the rise.
Drivers in 2016 incurred around $276 million in animal-related damages, whether from direct impacts with wildlife or subsequent harm caused by swerving out of the way. That figure represents a 21% increase from the previous year, which ended with around $224 million in wildlife-based insurance claims.
All told, the 2016 damages equal nearly 3% of the state’s total transportation budget, according to the report. But the issue is decidedly more prevalent in certain corners of California.
The Bay Area’s highways were by far the deadliest for animals over the 2015-2016 period, with 3,489 total incidents, the study shows.
Interstate 280 clocked the most wildlife-vehicle issues, with 386 collisions along 23 miles during the span, which cost taxpayers $875,000 per mile in cleanup and maintenance alone. The 28-mile stretch of Highway 101 in Marin County ranked second-worst, with 225 hits, coming to $525,009 per mile. Route 13, running from Oakland to Berkeley, was the third most-costly run of road, with 81 incidents that totaled a whopping $307,218 worth of damage for each of the 6.5 miles covered.
And while Los Angeles may be notorious for its infinitely snarled traffic, those slow speeds may actually be helpful in curbing wildlife collisions. The metropolitan area was much less of a hotspot for incidents, topping out at 33 total collisions along a 6-mile stretch of Route 2, and 13 crashes on 26 miles of Highway 101 in the L.A. area—costing $144,731 and $137,735 per mile, respectively.
Home to beaches, mountains, and deserts, there’s no doubt California is wildly beautiful—but if the trend of animal-car collisions keeps rising, the state will need to find a way to keep its wildlife bountiful.