Deer in bigger headlights

Either you’ve run into a deer on the road or know somebody who has, especially this time of year. Researchers have discovered that the use of a rear-facing LED light bar on the front of the vehicle can reduce collisions with deer at night.

Travis DeVault is the associate director of the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory at the University of Georgia. He says together with the USDA, they’re trying to understand how deer perceive a vehicle coming toward them. Maybe they don’t associate headlights with a large, deadly object. It could also be that they’re not able to see that object looming toward them.

"When we see something coming at us, that objects getting bigger and that’s called looming. Part of our thinking in designing this experiment was that maybe the reason why deer often freeze or don’t get out of the way for a vehicle, is that they’re not able to see that vehicle looming toward them," says DeVault. "So, try to get them not to freeze in the headlights like you often see deer do."

If you think about shining a flashlight toward the wall, you know it’s not nearly as bright as if you shine it right in your eyes. The light bar facing backwards against the vehicle has the same effect.

"Even though that light bar was really bright, when it was reflected off the front of the vehicle it didn’t add a lot more light intensity to the vehicle. What it did was it increased the surface area that was lit," he says. "So, the result here was that the deer had a larger image in order to focus on and to see that larger image looming toward them."

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