The Utah Department of Transportation is trying out an unusual high-tech way to stop that deer in your headlights from acting like, well, a deer in the headlights.
The system, called DeerDeter, is triggered by light from oncoming cars. It uses sound and small strobe lights to deter deer from crossing the road, an animal behavior concept clearly borrowed from Monty Python’s Confuse-a-Cat, Ltd. Since the system is activated only by headlights, it won’t interfere with deer migration patterns as they cross lonely roads.
State officials have been testing 100 DeerDeter units along a stretch of Highway 191 in Monticello, an area known for a high number of collisions involving deer and automobiles. As many as 300 dead deer must be removed from a 30-mile stretch there each year, which explains the state’s willingness to try the technology.
The state reportedly bought 70 DeerDeter units at a reduced price; the remaining 30 were donated to further test the technology. To measure its effectiveness, Utah DOT has installed infrared cameras to observe how deer react. Jafa Technologies, the company that makes DeerDeter, says the sound simulates the cry of a frightened animal and the strobes simulate the reflection of a predator’s eyes.
Jafa has installed the system in Europe and claims it has reduced deer collisions 90 percent in those areas where it was implemented. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says there are 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions annually (.pdf) resulting in 150 deaths, so a successful trial run could mean DeerDeter is coming to a wooded highway near you.
The system also is being tested installed in Essex County, New Jersey, and have been used in Denver and Fort Dix. While Utah DOT stresses it’s far too soon to draw any conclusions, there has yet to be a deer carcass removed from the test stretch of 191 since DeerDeter has been installed — good news for everyone.
Especially the deer.
Photo: donjd2 / Flickr. According to the caption info with the picture on Flickr, both deer and car escaped unscathed.