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Do deer whistles really prevent car crashes?

Posted at 10:48 AM, Nov 13, 2019

MERRIAM, Kan. — New numbers from the Kansas Department of Transportation show one in six car crashes in 2018 involved deer.

The animals were factors in around 10,734 wrecks, a 10-year high for the state.

Alan Heriford, who owns JoCo Auto Repair, said he is familiar with just how much damage deer can do to a vehicle. His wife's van is currently in his shop after its second collision with one.

"For whatever reason this one, it's a deer magnet," Heriford said.

Hearing how much the repairs cost is enough to make anyone freeze up like a deer in headlights.

"I would guess somewhere between $6,000 to $7,000 worth of damage to it," Heriford said. "And the deer walked away."

But what if there was a way to keep the deer off the road in the first place? A simple, inexpensive device that promises to reduce accidents?

They're called deer whistles and can be purchased for less than $10 online or at an auto shop. Once attached to the front bumper or grill of your car, they're supposed to emit a sound that alerts deer and scares them off.

Heriford said he sees them on customers' cars.

"Some people swear by them, and other people swear that they're just a waste of money," he said.

Academics have not been impressed with deer whistle performance.

WCPO in Cincinnati interviewed an animal audiologist who worked on a 2003 study focused on the devices. Researchers tested six different whistles and found deer can hear them, but it's likely too late.

"The amount of road the car is covering per second, by the time the signal actually would have reached the deer, the car would have been close enough probably to strike the deer," said Peter Scheifele of the University of Cincinnati.

A 2007 study from the University of Georgia also found deer whistles are "likely not effective in altering deer behavior along roadways to prevent collisions."

Still, with a price point under $10, some drivers think having the whistles can't hurt.

"At this point, with the amount of money I've put into it, I'm thinking maybe a couple of deer whistles might be a good idea," Heriford said. "We'll see."

This story was originally published by Cat Reid on KSHB.