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Local communities see uptick in deer collisions

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 18, 2015

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According to Lt. Michael Vargas, of the Beverly Hills Public Safety Department, the village typically sees around one or two deer-related auto accidents in a given season.

But there’s a good chance that average could be exceeded this year, since there have already been two such incidents in Beverly Hills — on the same day.

“There’s a lot of deer that move along that corridor along the Rouge River, and they go wandering out in the morning and afternoons,” said Vargas. “Sure enough, (on Nov. 11) at 7 a.m. and again at 5 p.m., we got reports of drivers who had hit a deer.”

Luckily, both drivers came away from the accidents unharmed and with their vehicles still in drivable condition. But that’s not always the case, and in the Birmingham-Bloomfield area, deer on the roadways are always a safety concern.

Deer crashes accounted for around 15 percent of all crashes around the state last year, according to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. Experts say that no areas, even high-traffic urban communities, are safe from a deer darting into the road unexpectedly.

Residents in Franklin and Bingham Farms know a thing or two about deer sightings, where low lighting and rural-like properties make great habitats for Bambi and crew. Chief Dan Roberts, of the Franklin-Bingham Farms Police Department, said that this time of year, the department will typically get at least a few deer-related incident reports each week. Just last week, in fact, Roberts saw three come across his desk. The good news is that in his area, Roberts rarely sees injuries or serious vehicle damage come from collisions with deer.

“Most of the time we see damage to cars, and the involved deer usually passes away, but thankfully we rarely see any injuries on the part of the vehicle occupants due to these accidents,” he said. “In those jurisdictions where they have highways with cars traveling at higher speeds, the likelihood of injuries to occupants of the involved car is increased. We don’t have any highway traffic throughout villages, so the accidents are generally at lower speeds.”

That’s good news, because according to State Farm representative Steve Guc, the national average cost of a claim filed following a deer collision is $4,135.

Since there’s no chance to shoo away deer before an accident takes place, Roberts said that a driver’s best bet is to minimize potential damage by taking it a little slower to reduce impact force.

“Actually, we would advise not to swerve to avoid the deer, for fear of swerving into oncoming traffic,” he said. “There’s not really much we can do proactively on that, other than just try to aggressively enforce the speed limits and other traffic laws.”

Even though bright and bustling Woodward Avenue runs through Bloomfield Hills, Lt. Noel Clason, of the Bloomfield Hills Public Safety Department, said the city isn’t safe from deer collisions. In fact, the animals can be a major problem in the area, which boasts huge lots and plenty of natural landscape.

“Basically, (right now) is deer rut season — mating — and Bloomfield Hills has about two dozen car accidents every year because they’re moving,” Clason said.

Clason said there are some tips available to avoid hitting deer, and he referred to a list he found pretty useful from the Geico insurance website:

Drivers should remember to:

• Watch for the rest of the gang, since deer are pack animals and rarely travel alone. 

• Timing is everything. Deer are most active at dusk and dawn, periods when motorists’ vision is most compromised. Slow down and stay alert, especially after dark.

• Wear your seat belt. It may not prevent a collision, but a seat belt can reduce injuries. 

• Take a moment to look for signs of deer. A yellow diamond sign posted signifies that deer may be in the area. Drivers might also spot the animals’ eyes glowing in the headlights. 

• Stay in the center of a multilane road, because the center lane is the safest bet for avoiding a deer collision, as long as local traffic laws permit it. 

• If you see a deer, brake firmly and calmly, and stay in your lane. Swerving could make you lose control of your vehicle and turn a bad situation much worse.

• Honk! Some experts recommend that one long blast of the horn will scare deer out of the road. 

Staff Writer Eric Czarnik contributed to this report.

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