Car navigation systems could warn about reindeer on the road
Attempts to halve the 4,000 annual reindeer collisions
In-car satellite navigation systems will start issuing warnings of possible reindeer on Finnish highways.
The experiment set to start this autumn relates to a Ministry of Transport and Communications project, the aim of which is to cut the number of reindeer accidents in half.
Reindeer may not have the bulk and potentially lethal threat of elk, but they do pose a considerable problem on Finnish roads.
Annually around 4,000 collisions with reindeer take place on the highways of the north. Between January and July this year, around 400 road accidents involving a reindeer have been officially reported.
Various steps, such as spreading reindeer repellent on the roads, have been taken in an attempt to reduce the number of reindeer collisions. So far these measures have had little effect on the number of accidents.
“Today many motorists already have sat-nav devices in their cars, so harnessing this technology to warn about the reindeer might be an efficient method”, says executive manager Pertti Viik of the Reindeer Herders’ Association.
Nearly every satellite navigation device can be rigged to sound a beep to inform the driver of a police speed camera lurking by the side of the road. The thinking goes that in the same fashion, an intelligent device could warn about the presence of reindeer.
Unfortunately, unlike the cameras in their sheet metal boxes, the reindeer do not stay put.
“For this purpose the reindeer herders will notify on which road sections there are exceptionally large numbers of reindeer. For example in the spring the reindeer will not try to cross a river if the ice is too weak. At that time the animals easily resort to using roads and bridges instead”, Viik explains.
In the first phase, six of the country’s 56 reindeer herding cooperatives will take part in the experiment.
“The information will be collected by the cooperatives’ damage estimators, who then pass the information regarding the reindeer movements to Destia Traffic, responsible for maintaining the database. In the autumn it will be decided how long the individual reindeer warnings will continue to be transmitted to the navigators”, explains engineer Erkki Hulkko of the Finnish Road Administration’s Lapland Road Region.
Destia Traffic is the leading provider of commercial traffic information in the Nordic and Baltic countries.
The sums involved in reindeer accidents are not small: each year the reindeer cooperatives receive compensation of around EUR 1.5 million for livestock lost in this way.
The average sum is around 700 euros, but for an animal that is used for racing, or in the tourism industry - for example pulling Santa's sleigh - the figure can be as much as EUR 2,000.
Compulsory vehicle insurance provides compensation for major vehicle damage or personal injuries.
Reindeer Herders´ Association - ReindeerNet