As we move towards the summer, the sun is shining more and the temperatures keep rising. People are hit with the sudden urge to sit outside on restaurant patios and soak in the sun. Combined with that many Finns are suddenly heading to the countryside to their summer houses. You may also feel the need to start exploring the country. Before you jump behind the steering wheel, though, you might want to read this word of warning.
In 2017 there were 1 824 collisions with an elk on Finnish roads and as a result 3 people lost their lives and 145 were injured. Elks are enormous animals. A full-grown elk bull can weigh up to 700 kg and be up to 220 cm tall as measured at the withers. Total height can reach 3 m. Imagine hitting this while you are driving 80 km/h or faster.
So, why are we bringing this up right now? That’s because around May and June elk females give birth to new calves and before they do that, they drive away their previous year’s offspring. These newly separated and slightly confused elks wander around and can cause accidents.
You should be extra vigilant when driving just before sunrise or just after sunset. Keep one eye on the side of the road, especially if there are bushes very close to the side of the road. An elk can suddenly appear from behind a bush.
When you see elk warning signs along the roads, take those seriously. They have been erected in places that are known crossing places for elks. So slow down. At lower speeds the risk of collisions goes down as does the risk of dying in such a collision. If an elk does cross the road in front of you, try to steer your car behind it because once an elk starts to cross the road, it very rarely turns back.
Special note for drivers in Uusimaa and Ostrobothnia regions: Roe deer give birth to their calves in May and June, and most of the collisions with roe deer happen then. Collisions with white-tail deer occur mostly in the fall and these collisions are concentrated in southwestern Finland.
Finns have a habit of warning other drivers of elks or deer they’ve seen on road or on the side of the road. If an oncoming car flashes its headlights at you, there are usually only two possible reasons for this: either you don’t have your headlights on or the driver is warning you that there are elks or deer ahead. Slow down, check you lights, and pay attention to the road and the roadsides ahead of you!
Learn more about buying, owning, and driving a car in Finland from our Four Wheels in Finland tutorial.
Liikennevirasto 2018: Hirvionnettomuudet vuonna 2017. Liikenneviraston tilastoja 6/2018.
Tilastokeskus (Statistics Finland): Vuonna 2018 tapahtui liikenteessä yli 12 000 riistaonnettomuutta. Online article, accessed 15.5.2019.
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