Do deer whistles prevent deer-car accidents?

Don't Waste Your Money

This is peak deer season in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, and no doubt you have seen dead deer lying on the side of the highway at some point.

One Warren County, Ohio, man whose wife was in an accident with a deer is now wondering whether deer whistles might prevent it from happening again.

Jim McHugh says his wife recently hit a deer, causing more than $12,000 damage to her car.

"A deer came out nowhere, hit the front of her Lexus," he said. "One minute she was driving, the next there was a deer looking at her through the windshield."

So he decided to pick up a set of deer whistles, sold at hardware and auto parts stores for as little as $10 a pair.

"They're supposed to deter deer from crossing in front of you,"  McHugh said. "But I don't know if they work."

So would a whistle on your front bumper really have any effect?

University study tests 6 whistles

We tracked down a professor who completed an extensive study of these whistles a decade ago, looking into whether deer can really hear them at all.

Dr. Peter Scheifele is an animal audiologist who studies animal hearing at the University of Cincinnati. While a professor at the University of Connecticut, he co-authored a study testing six deer whistles.

"We actually ran them at a test track, where we were able to record from the point of view of a deer," Scheifele said.

The good news: He says deer can hear the whistles. The bad news: Your car may hit the deer first.

"Given the speed of the car, at around 40 miles an hour or more, and the amount of road the car is covering per second," he said, "by the time the signal would reach the deer, the car probably would have been close enough to strike the deer."

No university study has ever proven whistles prevent deer accidents.

Scheifele says some experts even wonder if the whistle can alarm the deer so much that it darts out in front of your car, instead of just standing on the side of the road.

Newer whistles are now battery powered and claim to be louder.

However, many municipalities, including the city of Cincinnati do not install whistles on their cars. The Cincinnati Park Board says it has no evidence the whistles work and don't want to give employees a false sense of security.

McHugh, though, figures a whistle can't hurt. "I'm willing to give it a try," he said.

Whatever you decide to do, don't waste your money.


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