Deer-seeking sensors to warn Indiana Toll Road motorists

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February 13, 2002

Deer-seeking sensors to warn Indiana Toll Road motorists

JAMESTOWN, Ind. (AP) - A stretch of the Indiana Toll Road where cars frequently collide with deer will serve as the test site for a warning system to alert drivers when deer are nearby. Toll Road managers are paying $200,000 to install six sets of infrared sensors along a six-mile stretch of the highway in northeastern Indiana. The system will detect movement in the roadway and use flashing lights to warn drivers when animals, such as deer, are on or near the road ahead.

''This project is exciting because it differs from other deer-deflector systems in that this one sends the warnings to the motorists instead of the animals,'' Steve Miller of Sensor Technologies & Systems, Inc. told The News-Sun of Kendallville for a story published Wednesday. Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Sensor Technologies is deploying six sets of infrared motion detectors on the Toll Road between Interstate 69 and State Road 9, from mile markers 132 to 142. More than 50 deer-car crashes occur in the stretch each year. If an animal breaks a beam from a sensor, infrared transmitters will send signals to flashing lights spaced a half-mile apart along the highway.

Those lights will warn drivers of animals in the roadway, allowing time to slow down and avert a potentially deadly impact with a large animal. The detectors are equipped with antennas and are solar-powered. The power system, which was designed for northern Indiana's sunlight conditions, charges during the day and runs independently of the sensors. It can run 10 days without any sunshine. The system is expected to be fully operational in March. Signs along the highway will explain the system to drivers. Miller said his company has been working on the system for nearly a year. Indiana is serving as the largest test site.

The only other state taking part in the project is Montana, where a one-mile stretch is being outfitted with sensors. Indiana and southern Michigan have an unusually high number of deer-car accidents, according to Toll Road operations engineer Sam Wolfe. In 2000, 634 deer were struck by vehicles on the Toll Road between the Ohio and Illinois lines; 744 deer were killed in the same stretch in 2001. Several infrared-based warning systems have been tried before but didn't work well because they were designed to scare away the deer, Miller said. ''With this, instead of scaring the deer away, we're warning the drivers because we know how to communicate with drivers better than deer,'' Miller said.
 


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