Horses, wildlife and people are much safer along a three-mile stretch of Highway 50 east of Dayton, thanks to a reflector system designed to keep animals away from highway traffic at night.
Gail Bellenger, a wildlife biologist with Nevada's Department of Transportation, said the reflectors, called Strieter-Lites, were installed a year ago as an experiment.
During the first year of the three-year study, only one animal was hit, a deer that was struck in the middle of the day when the reflectors don't work.
Statistics show that 40 animals were killed along the adjoining 28-mile stretch of highway between Carson City and Silver Springs from January to December 2002.
"This is the first time Strieter Lites have been tested with horses. We were hesitant at first because there isn't much data. It could be a fluke, but so far we've seen no road kills at night -- no horses, deer, cows or dogs," she said. "I'm very pleased, and I'm confident this program will be effective."
She said officials at the Nevada Department of Transportation chose the stretch because many animals have died along it every year.
"We also chose the area because the wildlife population includes deer and horses," she said. "We wanted to make sure we were protecting deer, as well as testing the reflectors to see if they'd work with horses."
If the results are as good in two years at the end of the study, the program will be expanded to other Nevada highways where animal deaths are high.
There are a number of critical areas around Elko, and problems exist around Las Vegas with burros.
"A collision with a deer or horse can also take human life. This program means people aren't getting hurt," Bellenger said. "The program will keep the highways safer for everyone, and there's a real benefit for insurance companies."
The reflectors are on galvanized posts and staggered along opposite sides of the highway. Activated by approaching headlights, light bounces off of the reflectors at angles, creating an unnatural, moving red light along the shoulders of the road.
"The light is readily seen by wildlife and, after the headlights have passed, the animals go on their way," Bellenger said. "When a car is even with a reflector, a driver might be able to see something if they tried looking off to the side, but most won't even see the lights."
Installation in the test area -- three miles starting at mile marker 11 near the Fort Churchill road -- cost $20,000. The project is being funded by NDOT.
Strieter-Lite Wild Animal Highway Warning reflectors cost $18, and manufacturers recommend placing 200 per mile of roadway. There are no mechanical devices, and the primary maintenance consists of cleaning them periodically with water and sponge.
The reflectors are manufactured in Austria and distributed by the Strieter Corp. in Rock Island, Ill.