More ‘animals on road’ 55-mph zones

BIG PINEY – Local motorists are used to two stretches of the county’s nighttime speed limit changes – on U.S. Highway 191 between the Hoback Rim and Daniel and also south of Pinedale to Boulder.

Flashing yellow lights through dusk, midnight and dawn mark the beginning and end of these zones where the usual 70-mile per hour speed limit drops to 55 mph at night. These two particular stretches are important wildlife migration crossings where the Wyoming Department of Transportation has tried to reduce collisions in western Wyoming.

Three new sections of highway just outside Sublette County are added – as of Nov. 1 – for new experimental nighttime speed-limit reduction studies similar to the Bondurant and Boulder zones, according to WYDOT spokeswoman Stephanie Harsha.

These speed-zone reductions will run through April 30:

• U.S. Highway 189 from Big Piney to LaBarge, for 23 miles.

• U.S. Highway 189 South near Lazeart Junction, for 16 miles.

• U.S. Highway 30 from Kemmerer heading west, for 8 miles.

WYDOT is studying their effectiveness to see if wildlife versus vehicle collisions are reduced, Harsha said.

“Wildlife-vehicle collisions pose a serious problem to society with regard to human safety, wildlife mortality, habitat connectivity and financial costs,” she said.

In Wyoming, an average of 2,228 wildlife vehicle collisions were reported over the last three years, accounting for 15 percent of all reported collisions. These collisions often result in significant damage to vehicles and injury to their occupants – and are almost always deadly to the antelope, deer, moose, elk and other animals struck on highways.

When the yellow flashing beacons are not activated, the nighttime speed limit is not in effect, she explained.

“Nighttime speeds are in effect when the flashing beacons are active, which is nightly from a half-hour prior to official sunset to a half-hour after official sunrise,” said District 3 Traffic Engineer Darin Kaufman.

“As the days get longer, our traffic techs are constantly adjusting the timing of the flashing beacons,” he said. “The dusk and dawn time periods seem to be when wildlife are actively moving across highways and when there tends to be a higher number of incidents with wildlife. Our attempt is to try to capture the attention of motorists and to change their driving habits during these critical time periods.”

WYDOT urges motorists to watch for wildlife, obey all traffic rules and take extra precautions at night. Don’t “outdrive” your headlights and scan the road from shoulder to shoulder watching for wildlife.

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