Wouldn’t it be awesome if something as simple and inexpensive as a deer whistle could save a life? Saving a person or a deer for somewhere between the price of a fancy Starbucks coffee and a pizza would be a pretty darn good deal. On the other hand, if that “deer whistle for car” isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be, it would be a tad annoying to find out you’d handed over good money for nothing. Or, far worse, if having one caused you to let down your guard a bit because you were relying on it to work, and you ended up in an accident. So, if you’re wondering, “how deer whistle works,” or, more importantly, “do deer whistles work,” let’s get right to the point. No. They don’t work. If you don’t really care why they don’t work, scroll ahead to “Nine tips for safely avoiding a collision with deer…” because that info is important for everyone. If you’re curious about why these gadgets fail, read on for some surprising (and some perfectly logical) facts.
Some basic facts about deer whistles…
Deer whistles have been around for a few decades, gathering an undeserved following. Not because they deserve it, but simply because the problem of collisions with deer crossing roads needs a solution, and people tend to think solutions can be purchased, so the market responds. There are two main types of deer whistle—those powered by the passage of air through a tiny turbine, and those that generate signals electronically. The latter type, though sometimes effective in a very narrow range of circumstances (basically when you wouldn’t need one anyway), cost more like a fancy meal out for two… with wine. The cost would be okay with most of us if they made a real difference… but they don’t.
There are multiple reasons deer whistles fail to solve the problem. Whistles that broadcast an ultrasonic sound (beyond the range of human hearing), which supposedly is heard by deer, are on the thinnest ground for credibility. Why? Deer actually have about the same hearing range as humans. Whoops! Well, hmmm…. then, what about deer whistles with a signal that is “sonic,” (within our hearing range)? Those are unlikely to work as desired if any of the following likely and common things happen:
- You’re driving below 70 mph (of course, you should be going more slowly than this in any area where deer are likely to be crossing, so there’s that);
- It’s raining (it happens, and it will also mean you’re driving more slowly, so double whammy there);
- There’s road noise from your vehicle or other vehicles around you (nothing to be done about either of those);
- There’s a curve, a tree, other cars, a hill, or some other obstruction between the whistle and the deer (if there weren’t any of those things present, you’d probably see the deer in plenty of time to slow down anyway); or
- Dirt, an insect, or other debris happens to lodge in the whistle (not likely you’ll be checking for that before each and every drive, right?).
In addition, deer react differently to sounds, depending upon season, time of day, temperature, age, sex, and other conditions. A pregnant female or a female with young may be frightened and either freeze in her tracks or run off. On the other hand, a young male in the midst of the rut may charge toward the source of the offending sound, which is, oh, right… attached to the front of your car! Yikes! So… maybe let’s scratch the idea based on that point alone.
The Internet abounds with anecdotal “evidence” that practically anything you want to look up is “amazingly effective.” But with deer whistles, you might want to focus, instead, on the findings of numerous scientists and highway officials who have taken time to test a range of these products. No fewer than six state universities have studied the use of deer whistles as a means of avoiding collisions, as have numerous state highway patrol agencies and police departments throughout the U.S. Consistently, their studies have found that deer whistles are ineffective at reducing collisions with deer. Equally important to note is the fact that these experts also have roughly the same advice for what will work to reduce your chances of having a collision with deer—read on for those tips.
Nine tips for safely avoiding a collision with deer…
- Slow down, and watch the road more carefully! Best advice by far if you’re looking to improve road safety for you and your family.
- Be extra cautious during late fall and early winter, when deer are most active due to hunting and mating seasons. Hunting season may make deer suddenly bolt across a road while trying to escape danger, or travel through areas with which they are less familiar. The search for a mate and pursuit of females will cause animals to forget whatever natural caution they may have around roads, so watch more carefully during this time of year.
- Watch carefully at dawn and dusk. Deer are foraging at these already low-visibility times of day, and may be near road edges or crossing roads.
- Use your brights at night. Turn on your high beams in the dark to illuminate the road further ahead of you. Lower your speed and watch for the reflection of the light in the eyes of deer at the road’s edge.
- If you see a deer, flash your lights and honk your horn. These signals are far more likely than a deer whistle to alert deer to your oncoming vehicle.
- When one animal crosses the road, stop if you can safely do so. Other animals are likely to follow—young, following their mother, or males, in pursuit of a female.
- If a deer suddenly crosses in front of you, avoid radical shifts in steering to avoid hitting the deer. You may, instead, collide with another car, a tree, or some other thing that would likely cause you greater injury than the deer would.
- If you do accidentally hit a deer, contact local law enforcement immediately. Stress that the deer in the road is creating a public safety hazard, so help will arrive quickly, sparing other drivers from possible mishaps while maneuvering around the animal in the road.
- Do not attempt to assist a large, injured wild animal unless you have training to do so. Police and/or local wildlife control personnel are best able to help.
So, don’t waste your money on an ineffective gadget… Your own good sense and vigilance are still the only truly effective and dependable “equipment” for managing the risk of animals crossing the roads you and your loved ones travel.