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D’oh! A deer (and other autumn motorcycle dangers)

Sept. 10, 2018

A deer crossing a road

There’s not much time left in this year’s motorcycle riding season, so you’re likely taking every opportunity to get on your bike and enjoy the crisp (well…sometimes downright cold) fall air and what beautiful fall colors are left.

But along with turkeys and pumpkin spice everything, the season brings with it unique dangers to a motorcycle rider. There is much less daylight. Wet leaves can be slick on the roadway. And deer are out in droves.

There have been 46 motorcyclists killed so far in 2018. Of those motorcyclists killed in crashes, 74 percent (34 riders) weren’t wearing a helmet (an easy conclusion to draw from this is that helmets make you safer on your motorcycle. So wear one. Every single time you ride). Of the 44 deadly crashes so far this year, 16 of them happened while the rider was negotiating a curve — further evidence that you can never have too much training.

But the statistic that is most integral to the season is that four of this year’s crashes happened because the motorcyclist collided with deer. It’s easy to see how such a thing could be deadly: Compared to most other wildlife we encounter on the road – squirrels and birds, for example – deer are big, creating targets that are harder to miss. And, as the wild animals they are, they’re unpredictable. When one of them wanders into your path, it’s impossible to know which way they’re going to go – if they go at all.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to avoid colliding with deer, or to mitigate a collision if it’s unavoidable, when they cross your path – but be sure to practice these maneuvers so they come naturally when it happens:

  • Use emergency braking by applying both front and rear brakes to stop as quickly as possible.
  • If you can't stop in time and have room in the lane, attempt to swerve slowly behind the animal.
  • If you don't have enough room to swerve and stay on the road, keep your eyes up and make sure the motorcycle is as stable as possible upon impact.

So when you take that bike out for a few final spins, remember that fall brings its own set of challenges to motorcycle riders. But with a little planning and practice, you can close out the riding season without becoming a statistic.