Enhancing Deer Awareness to Approaching Vehicles

Enhancing Deer Awareness to Approaching Vehicles


Enhancing Deer Awareness to Approaching Vehicles

Photo of mule deerEach year, deer-vehicle collisions (DVCs) are responsible for greater than $1.1 billion in damages, injuries, and loss of animals in the United States. There are many factors that contribute to the number of DVCs in an area, including deer population demographics, traffic volume and speed, activity patterns, seasonality, and habitat features. Many of these factors are unchangeable, but the ability to develop lighting systems in vehicles to enhance deer avoidance may be one factor that could be improved.

To help reduce DVCs, NWRC researchers tested how the spectrum from two currently available automobile lighting systems might serve to alert deer to approaching vehicles. Currently, most cars are equipped with standard tungsten-halogen (TH) headlights. However, these types of lights may not provide the best compliment to deer visual capabilities at night. NWRC researchers Dr. Bradley Blackwell and Thomas Seamans conducted a study at the Sandusky, Ohio, field station involving combinations of standard tungsten-halogen (TH) lighting and the addition of different pulse frequencies of Xenarc high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting in automobiles. They measured flight-initiation distance of white-tailed deer to an approaching vehicle relative to three different lighting scenarios. Their hypothesis was that the HID light best complimented deer visual capabilities and, thus, would likely enhance visual detection by deer in low light or dark situations and cause a more rapid response to approaching vehicles. Numerous trials were conducted at various times during the night and seasonally to ascertain which headlight combination was most effective.

Study results show that the combination of TH lamps and constant illumination of HID lamps increased the distance in which white-tail deer reacted to approaching vehicles, on average by as much as 20 meters. Further studies are needed to account for variations in deer behavior and habitat types.

Products, such as new vehicle lighting systems, created as a result of this research could potentially lower the number of DVCs occurring in the U.S. and abroad.

For more information, please contact nwrc@aphis.usda.gov.

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