In 2018, VRSA Senior Safety Consultant Fonda Craig visited with Captain Joey McLaughlin with the New Kent County Sheriff’s Office to see the installation of Hornet electronic deer avoidance systems.
The devices were purchased with $3,700 in VRSA Risk Management Grant funding, and installed on 25 devices. Read more in this blog post.
Late last year, Craig caught back up with Captain McLaughlin to discuss the results of the pilot program over the first 13 months.
Since the devices were installed, the county has had a total of 12 incidents involving deer. Of those, three involved vehicles with the Hornet deer avoidance systems involved.
“The initial installment included 25 vehicles,” said Craig. “Of those 25, three were involved in a deer strike during this time frame.”
McLaughlin says that while some officers weren’t big fans of the devices, others were.
“Overall majority of the nightshift use the whistle,” said McLaughlin. “Those who have used it have seen deer stand still and try to figure out what is going on – and by the time they do the car has passed by.”
Virginia is ranked in the top 15 states with the highest number of deer strikes, with more than 5,000 deer strike incidents occurring in 2018, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
New Kent County covers 220 square miles with deputies working 12-hour shifts. On average, their patrol deputies put 38–42,000 miles on their vehicles each year – greatly increasing their exposure to potential deer strikes.
While the results from the first year do not yet provide clear evidence as to the effectiveness of the devices, Captain McLaughlin says the county will continue to utilize the devices.
“If they are on the vehicle, we’ll still use them – and we might replace them depending on the price,” said McLaughlin.
VRSA thanks New Kent County for participating in this pilot program.
“The feedback is very beneficial to us and other members in deciding whether they want to venture down this road,” said Craig. “We’ll continue to look for ways to help avoid these deer strikes that we’re seeing throughout the membership.”
For now, VRSA is focusing on the activity and efforts made to achieve a goal rather than the known results. New Kent County and VRSA realize avoiding just one deer strike pays for the investment. We will continue to monitor the results and invest in best practices to manage risk.