Motorcyclist fatality sheds light on dangers of moose crossings

July 2, 2013

A motorcyclist was killed, and his passenger left in critical condition, after hitting a moose crossing Alaska’s Glenn Highway last week. As unusual as the accident may sound to urban dwellers, vehicle accidents involving moose are relatively common in Alaska, which has a high population of both moose and motorcyclists. In fact, Alaska has more registered bikers than any other state.

moose crossing

In Alaska, between 700 and 800 moose die from vehicle collisions each year.
Photo by Bob Keefer via Flickr.

According to The Alaska Dispatch, 29-year-old Ryan E. Beachy, who officials assume was driving, was killed. His passenger, 25-year-old Tracy L. Bushnell of Indiana, was transported by helicopter to an Anchorage area hospital. She suffered critical injuries and remained unconscious throughout the rescue effort. Officials said that Bushnell was wearing a helmet, which was knocked off during the accident, while Beachy was not. (In Alaska, helmets are not mandated by law for riders over 18 years old.)

The Anchorage Daily News reports that the motorcycle was heading south when the moose approached. Investigators believe that the front of the bike hit the moose, ejecting the passengers from their seats. Despite the CPR efforts of multiple passersby, Beachy could not be revived.

motorcycle moose accident

A stretch of Glenn Highway in Alaska, where the accident took place.
Photo by Colin Miller via Flickr.

Moose and motorcycles are often a deadly combination. While The Dispatch reports that 80 percent of the state’s motorcycle accidents are fatal, of the almost 15,000 moose-vehicle collisions in Alaska between 1977 and 2006, 29 resulted in fatalities, 218 moose-motorist accidents resulted in major injuries, and 2,192 (or 15 percent) resulted in minor injuries; the remaining number caused property damage. Three of last year’s four fatal moose-vehicle collisions involved motorcycles. In this recent accident, the moose was killed on impact. On average, between 700 and 800 Alaskan moose die in vehicle collisions each year.

The state can’t necessarily be faulted for not promoting awareness of moose-related dangers. Earlier this spring, the House of Harley motorcycle group joined forces with The Alaska Moose Federation for “Moose Off the Bikes,” a fundraiser and program aimed at increasing motorcycle safety and supporting moose habitats. Highways in Alaska and elsewhere are also dotted with moose crossing and other animal crossing signs to warn motorists of these potential hazards.

moose crossing sign

Moose crossing signs like this one can help keep highways safe.

Despite such measures, animal-vehicle collisions throughout the country are on the rise. Data from the Deer-Vehicle Crash Information Clearinghouse (DVCIC), a group based at the University of Minnesota Center for Excellence in Rural Safety, shows an increase in fatal collisions. There were 215 fatal accidents in 2007, up from 122 in 1994. According to the group’s most current data, the greatest number of fatalities occurred in Texas, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan.

The problems caused by moose populations in other states are comparable to those in Alaska—Maine’s department of transportation, for instance, warns motorists that June is one of the top months for moose-vehicle collisions. (In Alaska, the most dangerous months for these types of collisions are December and January.) New Hampshire is home to approximately 6,000 moose, as well as 250 related accidents per year, and New York State has reported an annual figure of about 65,000 animal-related collisions.

Because both moose populations and roadways vary, check out the specific warnings for your state. Helpful information for avoiding animal collisions can be found on most states’ Department of Transportation websites, among them: New York, Maine, New Hampshire, California and Alaska.

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Category: Motorcycles, Resources, Road safety

About the Author ()

Katy is a writer, reporter and editor who, in addition to writing for RoadTrafficSigns, has worked with the United Nations Development Programme, Hamptons magazine, Hearst Corporation, The Daily Mail, People Magazine, and a variety of other publications and nonprofits. After graduating with honors from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and distinctions on her thesis and in the consumer journalism seminar, she moved to Milan, Italy. In Italy, she worked as a writer and consultant for an international magazine, editing and translating text and reporting on such events as the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the annual design fair. A born and raised New Yorker, she has lived in three of five boroughs, relying quite a bit on public transport until getting her driver's license at the admittedly belated age of 21.

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