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Hitting a deer on a motorcycle is one of the worst crashes a rider can get into. Deer whistles are a possible solution to ward off the animal, but do deer whistles work on motorcycles?
It’s common knowledge that the number of deer that we see on the road across the United States continues to increase in the rural areas. In turn, this also means that the number of motorcycle and car crashes with deer involved is increasing.
A motorcyclist has many concerns about their safety, not the least of which is getting tired while your riding your motorcycle. One of these concerns the possibility of hitting deer. If you are lucky, hitting a deer will never happen to you; however, if it does, it could lead to serious consequences.
Serious injury or death can occur when a motorcycle and a deer collide. It is because of the seriousness of motorcycle and deer collisions, that many are looking for ways to deter deer from crossing the road as the motorcycle is moving toward and away from the animal, including the use of deer whistles.
Do Deer Whistles Work On Motorcycles?
Studies indicate that deer whistles are ineffective and at best inconclusive in reducing motorcycle accidents.
A lot of motorcycle riders wonder if the use of a deer whistle is effective in preventing motorcycle crashes with deer. Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer as to whether or not deer whistles actually work the way that they are advertised to work.
The research on their effectiveness to date, has been limited; however, there are still arguments to be made as to their effectiveness. In order to understand if the deer whistle actually works on a motorcycle, you need to first understand how they are designed to work.
How do they work?
A deer whistle is designed to be mounted on a a motorcycle, with the intent of making a sound that warns deer of a vehicle’s imminent approach.
This sound is created when air moves through the deer whistle and the sound is actually ultrasonic in some models of the deer whistle. The thought process is that deer are extremely unpredictable animals.
The thought is that when the deer hear a sound that they are not familiar with that they will actually stop and listen to that sound. This curiosity and need to understand what the sound is, causes deer to freeze beside the road which prevents them from running in front of the oncoming vehicle that has deer whistles installed on it.
What has research shown?
The University of Wisconsin-Madison did research on deer whistles and worked with three different devices. The researchers were easily able to reproduce the sounds that the whistles made.
They determined that the sounds were normally produced by the devices when the vehicle or motorcycle was going between 30 and 70 miles an hour. They also were able to determine that the sounds were low pitched or in some cases ultrasonic.
The problem with the research is that they are not able to determine how these sounds actually affect deer.
Even more research was completed by the Georgia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. They found several issues with deer whistles. The first was that not all deer whistles emit a sound if the vehicle is going under 30 miles per hour.
That means if you are a motorcyclist and are traveling at 22 miles an hour, that the deer whistle may not produce the sound that is needed to cause a deer to freeze. The second was that the ultrasonic sounds that are produced by deer whistles actually do not travel far distances.
So, the deer may not even have time to freeze before the moving vehicle gets to the animal. The last two findings that they found, collaborated with the same findings that the University of Wisconsin-Madison had and that is that they do not know what frequencies a deer can actually hear and they do not know exactly how deer respond to certain frequencies.
More Recent Studies
There’s not a lot of studies out there pertaining to deer whistles, but a more recent study by Purdue University (here) in 2018 established that the data was at best inconclusive. Their finding showed that deer whistles don’t work.
Here is another study on the effectiveness of deer whistles that you can take a look at.
Some still believe
While not all research proves that a deer whistle is effective, there are drivers that have been using a deer whistle for years on all of their autos, some including motorcycles, that swear that they are effective; however, data has shown that the average speed of these drivers is 32 miles per hour.
Most of the individuals who believe that the whistles work, also mostly drive in rural areas.
These are areas that yet again speed is consistently over 30 miles per hour. So, it may be that the deer whistles are more effective for drivers of cars, trucks, and motorcycles when they are in areas in which their speed is consistently at the level for the deer whistle to work at the optimum level.
How should they be installed?
Ok, so you’d like to try it anyway.
It is possible (but unlikely) that deer whistles do not offer the protection that they are designed to provide due to poor installation of the whistles. The deer whistle has to be installed in a place in which there is going to be good, direct airflow into the whistle.
On a car, this would mean installing in such a way that the wide end is facing in a forward position and the pointed end should be pointed toward the road in a straight downward position.
This position ensures that the deer whistle gets adequate airflow to create the sound that it needs to create to cause the deer to freeze. When mounting a deer whistle to a motorcycle, you want to also attach it in a similar way to ensure the same adequate airflow.
As a motorcyclist, you do need to be aware that it may be possible for you to hear the sound that is created by the deer whistle. So, take the time to consider where the best placement is on your motorcycle or auto to get the best airflow possible.
Let’s be real though;
As a motorcyclist do you really want to attach something like this to your motorcycle? For me it’s a resounding no.
Should you try a deer whistle?
As we’ve discussed there’s still a few hold outs that thing there’s a chance that they work due to the data being somewhat inconclusive.
While some research has shown that the whistles do in fact create sounds that deer can hear, the question that is still left unanswered is whether or not that sound really has any effect on a deer and its behavior.
Getting these answers is pretty much impossible as it is hard to recreate the natural reaction of deer in a laboratory setting. Research has also shown that in order for the product to be effective and to even actually make a sound that is auditory for a deer, that the moving vehicle has to be at a specific speed.
What Can You Do?
Deer mostly migrate in the late fall around October through December. Most motorcyclists don’t usually ride that time of year. However when planning a trip motorcyclists may should be aware deer migration throughout the year.
In the end, there’s really no foolproof or one size fits all answer. It all comes basic to basic common sense and riding defensively.
Here’s a few tips to reduce deer collisions:
- Be watchful in early morning and early evening hours
- Use your high beams.
- Slow down – don’t over ride your head lights. In other words, don’t ride faster than you can see and react.
- Watch for deer crossing signs and be vigilant.
- Obey speed limits and wear all of your gear (helmet, gloves etc)
- If you see one deer – there’s usually more. Look for other deer that may be crossing.
Summing it up…
Do deer whistles work on motorcycles? While the effectiveness of deer whistles installed on a motorcycle is not conclusive, signs point to no.
Considering that deer whistles are extremely affordable; one needs to consider that since the research is inconclusive, they still may be a good investment to make if looking for ways to prevent a motorcycle collision with a deer.
A good motorcycle rider is always looking for ways to make their ride safer and the quick installation of a deer whistle in a suitable location may provide at least just a little more protection.
A collision with a deer or any other type of large animal is a nightmare for a person driving a motorcycle, so even the smallest effort should be considered if there is even a remote chance that a collision may be prevented.