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Carson Pakula publishes "Driving in the dark: Deciphering nighttime driver detection of wildlife"

Updated: Sep 12

Carson Pakula, a PhD Candidate at the University of Georgia's Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, publishes a chapter of his master's thesis. See abstract below & check out his upcoming research that builds upon this publication!

Pakula Carson J., Shane Guenin, Jonathan Skaggs, Olin E. Rhodes Jr., Travis L. DeVault. 2023. Driving in the Dark: Deciphering nighttime driver detection of free ranging roadside wildlife. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment 122: 103873.


Wildlife-vehicle collisions are dangerous for motorists; however, few studies have addressed driver detection of roadside animals, and none have evaluated detection of free-ranging wildlife. We used 24 volunteer drivers, infrared videography, a 75-km route, and free-ranging wildlife to quantify factors influencing (1) probability of wildlife detection, (2) detection distance, and (3) probability of dangerous encounters (i.e., detection distance < distance required for braking) for multiple species at night in South Carolina, USA. Detection probability of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) was impacted by multiple driver, animal, and roadside factors. Deer detection distances increased by 20.99 m when drivers used high-beam headlights and 23.36 m when deer were moving but decreased by 0.71 m for every minute into a drive. Every encounter with wild pigs (Sus scrofa) and most encounters with small mammals were considered dangerous. Our findings suggest most drivers cannot safely detect deer, wild pigs, and small mammals at night.

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