MARSHALL (AP) -- The Minnesota Department of Transportation will test a motion detector system to alert motorists when a deer is near Minnesota Highway 23 by Camden State Park, an area where many deer are struck by cars.
The Xccelerated Advance Warning Device includes a motion detector that is triggered when a deer or similarly-sized animal crosses its path and activates an amber beacon attached to a deer crossing sign.
The motion detectors will be located between 32 to 50 feet from the highway.
MnDOT plans to program the system to have the beacon lights flash for 45 seconds when a deer is detected in the area.
"The hope is that when drivers see the light they will be aware something is on the road and take their foot off the accelerator or touch the brake," MnDOT District 8 Traffic Engineer Jon Henslin said.
MnDOT plans to activate the device made by E.L. Lewis Enterprises in the Twin Cities on Wednesday on a 1-mile stretch of highway near Lynd, just southwest of Marshall.
Erick Lewis said the idea for his system was spawned by a thin ice warning system that talks to those who approach a sign warning of thin ice.
Bill Weinholzer, MnDOT State Programs Administrator, said the southwestern Minnesota test of the deer warning system will be the first in the United States.
The stretch of highway near Camden State Park was chosen for the test because of the large number of deer killed on the highway and the number of car-deer accidents reported, MnDOT officials said.
Bill Dinesen, the park's general manager, said as many as 100 deer have been killed in a single year along a 4 1/2-mile stretch of highway adjacent to the park.
Weinholzer said 20,000 car-deer accidents are reported annually in Minnesota, and the DNR estimates that only one-third of the accidents are reported.
If Lewis' warning system reduces accidents along the section of Highway 23, then it should work in other areas of the state, MnDOT officials said.
"No system is perfect," Henslin said, "but MnDOT believes this will be better than other methods tried before."
In the past, MnDOT has tried to reduce vegetation along highways and remove plants that would attract deer. Trees have been cut in areas with high numbers of car-deer accidents.
MnDOT also installed red warning reflectors that were intended to reflect car headlights and scare the deer away from the road. The deer continued to cross the road, Weinholzer said.
"We've tried just about everything. We are limited on what we can do. There is no way to train the deer," Weinholzer said.
The sign warning system focuses on the driver and not the deer. When the warning light is activated by a crossing deer, it should get the attention of drivers, Dinesen said.
"I would hope they'd slow down and starting looking around for something that may be crossing the road," he said.
MnDOT also will install two signs to inform traffic that the area is a test area for the warning system.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.