It’s that time of year again where Rudolph and his reindeer friends pop up on the TV, radio and in town centres around the world, but in Lapland the animals are actually involved in over 4,000 accidents a year.

We’ve been talking to Jaakko Ylinampa, Director at the ELY Centre, about the department’s contribution to the ‘Digital transport infrastructure and connected cars’ area of the Aurora project, which aims to offer driver alerts to dramatically cut the number of accidents, helping our large furry friends to stay safe for Christmas.

Over a third of Finland is dedicated to herding reindeer, with the animals able to roam freely. “They’re quite different to other animals,” Jaakko explains, “and at some point they’ll wander from one location to another for food, taking the same route every year. Unlike elk, for example, which tend to cross the road very quickly, reindeer are more likely to stay in the road.

“They’re not bothered by cars; they’re not bothered by people and they’re very relaxed animals. They move particularly slowly. This makes all the difference; with animals that cross the road quickly there’s no point in having a warning system, as by the time the next car comes along they will be gone.

“If somebody spots a reindeer, it’s likely to be there for 30 minutes or more, so it presents just as big an issue for the next vehicle. Reindeer never tend to travel alone, either. They’re likely to be in the road with their friends. If you’re driving and there’s one in the road, there’s likely to be a lot more – it’s very rare that you’ll only see one reindeer.”

It’s these peculiarities, along with the exceptionally harsh weather conditions in Finland, that lead to reindeer being involved in over 4,000 accidents each year, with up to 1,000 of those in November alone. As a result, the ELY Centre has been working with the Finnish Transport Agency, the Reindeer herder´s association, the Finnish Transport Safety Agency, Paikkatieto Online, HERE and other partners to develop a solution.

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