Danville Express

Newsfront - July 27, 2007

Deer whistles might prevent costly collisions

Devise would help keep deer from patrol cars' paths

by Jordan M. Doronila

Danville Police Chief Chris Wenzel saw a cute deer prancing as he drove his blue 1986 Toyota during twilight in Lafayette. But then it sprinted at him, hitting his car and then running away.

"It was like a predator coming at me and then it scurried away," Wenzel said. "I was so mad. I could barely get out of my car. The thing caused $1,500 (worth of) damages to my car. My corner light was damaged. My front fender was crushed."

To stop potential collisions with deer from occurring, he is considering buying deer whistles for the Danville Police Department's fleet of 13 cars. A deer whistle is a sonic generator mounted on cars to help prevent collisions with deer, according to traffic safety experts. The device produces an ultrasonic sound, relying on the animal's acute sense of hearing.

"It's a chief prevention," Wenzel said. "This area has a ton of deer around. We are protecting the taxpayers' money."

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," he added, recalling the popular quote by Benjamin Franklin.

Collisions between deer and police cars do not happen often in Danville, Wenzel said. Although he did recall when he was police chief in Orinda that one of his officers was hit by a deer, which caused $7,800 in damage. He noted police used whistles in the past but moved away from them. At times, the weather broke the plastic devices, which may have not been replaced.

"It's something we used to do," he said.

However, studies from the University of Wisconsin and Washington State University said that deer whistles have not necessarily decreased collisions between patrol cars and deer. Wenzel said he has seen these findings.

"We are finding conflicting things," he said.

Nevertheless, the police department's chief financial officer will study how the purchase of whistles factors into the budget, Wenzel said. The cost of each whistle is approximately $10.

"My philosophy is that we are looking into this," he said. "If it saves one vehicle from being damaged, it's worth it."

Contact Jordan M. Doronila at jdoronila@danvilleweekly.com or 925-837-8300.


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