There’s a New Lighting System That Will Help Deer Avoid Vehicles at Night

If you regularly drive in rural areas, where the possibility of hitting a deer is a nightly driving challenge, this bit of info might be of interest. There is a new type of lighting technology that has been substantially proven to reduce vehicular collisions with deer in low-light driving conditions. It’s not available yet, but hopefully, it will be coming soon.

There's a New Lighting System That Will Help Deer Avoid Vehicles at Night

These images show the difference in the “looming” appearance of approaching vehicles equipped with headlights (top) versus headlights plus the new rear-facing LED light (bottom).

Have you ever hit a deer while driving at night? I have — twice. Both times, it was unavoidable and terrifying. Unfortunately, one of those times was also deadly for the deer. One of my deer encounters crushed the rear quarter panel of the truck I was driving, resulting in an inconvenient repair that was thankfully just the price of my auto insurance deductible. Hitting a deer is something we would all like to avoid, but it isn’t always possible because deer on the road can pop-up from seemingly nowhere, or they will run from the side of the road right into your path. Trust me; if it happens to you, it’s not something that you’ll easily forget — especially if you make the mistake of swerving hard, which can sometimes result in the vehicle flipping. I haven’t ever done that, thank goodness, but I have heard stories from people I know who’ve come across those type wrecks right after they happened. Their stories are chilling.

Researchers from the USDA Wildlife Services program’s National Wildlife Research Center have conducted a series of experiments with free-roaming whitetail deer, and they have found that the use of a rear-facing LED bar which illuminates a more substantial portion of a vehicle’s front end than headlights alone resulted in “fewer dangerous deer-vehicle interactions.” The potential for an accident was lowered from 35% to just 10%, and the researchers say that this type of rear-facing lighting system seems to lessen the likelihood of the “freezing” behavior deer exhibit when illuminated by a vehicle’s lights.

photo via Wikipedia Commons

Not cool, Bambi!

The reflected light from the system on the front end of a vehicle creates a larger and more “looming image to deer, thus encouraging the deer to move out of the path of the approaching vehicle.” In other words, they’ll see the lights becoming increasingly larger — or ‘looming’ — and the deer will realize more quickly that something is coming versus thinking your vehicle is a stationary object that doesn’t appear to be moving until it is right on top of them.

In the United States and Canada, deer cause the majority of animal-related injurious and deadly road collisions. Many of the mitigation measures designed to reduce vehicle collisions with deer and other wildlife are road-based rather than vehicle-based. Road-based mitigation measures include devices and methods intended to influence animal behavior (e.g. roadside reflectors and mirrors, repellents, hazing) and driver behavior (e.g., warning signs, speed limits, animal detection systems), as well as vegetation management and highway lighting designed to increase visibility of wildlife to drivers, and wildlife population management. A vehicle-based system, such as the rear-facing LED light bar, advances efforts to reduce wildlife deaths and increase driver safety on roads.

This technology is patent-pending; it will be possible to incorporate it in existing vehicles as an after-market device, or the lighting technology can be installed in vehicles at the factory and sold as original manufacturer’s equipment. The USDA is looking for a licensing partner to build and market this new lighting system. Until it’s available (and hopefully affordable) for everyone — remember this callous but true rule: Never, ever swerve.

You can read the study here: “Frontal vehicle illumination via rear-facing lighting reduces potential for collisions with white-tailed deer”.


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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.

1 Comment on "There’s a New Lighting System That Will Help Deer Avoid Vehicles at Night"

  1. Now this would be a great addition to any car – should make it standard when available.

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