A new device could stop over one million automobile accidents each year, its inventor claims.
Deer Deter is an automated electronic system designed to keep wild deer and other large animals from running into oncoming traffic in the dark of night. Using a combination of light and sound, it literally stops the animals in their tracks as cars pass by.
Developed by an Austrian company, IPTE – Schalk & Schalk OG, the system is based around a series of small units that are placed on short posts along the roadside about 150 feet apart, facing away from the road. Triggered by the headlights of oncoming cars, they emit a high pitched sound and strobe light. According to the company’s U.S. representative, Edward A Mulka, the alert doesn’t scare the deer away, but simply catches their attention, causing them to freeze as if they’ve sensed a predator nearby.
Over 11,000 of the units have been deployed in Europe near known deer feeding points. Mulka says the installations have reduced collisions by up to 90 percent. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are around 1.5 million accidents the United States each year involving deer that are responsible for over $1 billion in damages and dozens of human fatalities.
The device is fully solar powered and requires very little maintenance. Some have already been in operation for over 10 years. One hitch in the original design that was uncovered during a test in Utah is that it can’t react quickly enough on roads with high speed limits, 65 mph or so, as headlights don’t shine far enough down the road to set the devices off in time, which usually pick them up about 400 feet out.
To get around this, the latest generation of Deer Deter has wifi connectivity, which allows one unit to be set up further down the road from the others. When triggered, it activates the others daisy chain style to stay far ahead of the approaching vehicle. The devices can also be fitted with a cellular connection, so they can report damage and collect weather information, like black ice conditions, which could theoretically be sent directly to automobiles in the area as connected car technology develops.
Mulka says the first generation of Deer Deter cost about $125-$150 per unit, or $10,000 per mile, but the updated model should sell for about half that price.
If you think the deer just get used to the alerts over time and eventually ignore them, Mulka says that hasn’t been the case. In fact, when he removed a test installation near Fort Dix in New Jersey, accidents remained low for over six months, suggesting the deer in the area may have actually learned to associate oncoming cars with danger after being exposed to the system for some time.