A nightmare for drivers in many parts of the country: You're zipping along a wooded stretch of road and a deer bounds straight into the path of your car. It happens as many as 20,000 times a year in states such as Texas and Pennsylvania and results in millions of dollars in damage to cars and injuries, some fatal, to motorists, to say nothing of the consequences to the deer.
Three months ago, an Austrian product was introduced in the U.S. that, its makers believe, can alleviate the situation. Known as Sav-A-Life, it's a two-inch-long, bullet-shaped gadget you mount on the front of your car. As the car attains speeds above 30 mph, air rushing over the cylinder produces a sound audible to deer up to a quarter of a mile away. The deer is frightened and retreats into the woods. The sound is ultrasonic, inaudible to humans.
Clayton Anderson, the importer marketing the product in this country, has marshaled an array of material to prove that Sav-A-Life works, including its European track record. "Studies done by the Finnish Institute of Forestry and Agriculture and the Korkeasaar Zoological Garden have found the device effective on deer, wolves, bats and dogs," he says. For some reason sheep and camels are less responsive. Anderson says the product has also been tested and recommended by an Austrian animal-welfare group.
Is all this too good to be true? Maybe so. Tom Allen, a game biologist from Elkins, W. Va. who has spent 17 years studying white-tailed deer, thinks it questionable that such a gadget would discourage deer from wandering into the road, although he admits he has never observed Sav-A-Life in action. Besides, says Allen, what happens in a deer-car collision is that "the driver rounds a bend and bang, it's there. The driver can't stop and the deer is confused. An ultrasonic sound might only confuse him more."
Sav-A-Life is available, at $16.95 plus $1.25 mailing, through Marcla Sales, Inc., 382 Central Park West, Suite 10M, New York, N.Y. 10025.