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Fall riding hazards and how to avoid them

Oct. 10, 2019

A motorcyclist on a curvy road

There are still a few beautiful days here and there, and if you’re a motorcyclist, you’re probably squeezing out those last few rides before the snow flies. So it’s a good time to remember that you share the road with not only motorcyclists and other drivers, but sometimes with animals.

Eight motorcyclists died as a result of a crash with an animal last year (most were deer, but there were other animals, too, including a moose).That ties the all-time record for fatal motorcycle crashes involving an animal. To date in 2019, three riders have died in collisions with animals.

Animals are, of course, extremely unpredictable, so good training is paramount. Encountering one may involve skills like emergency braking and swerving, so the more prepared you are, the better. Training is over for the season, but keep an eye on our Rider Training Courses web page to learn about the various levels of training. The 2020 training schedule will be posted there after the first of the year.

In the meantime, if you see an animal on or near the road while you’re riding, you may not have the luxury of time. Animals – especially deer – can simply jump out in front of you. If that happens, use your emergency braking technique; that is, apply both your front and rear brakes at the same time.

If you can’t stop in time or you’ve braked as much as you can but are still on a collision course with the animal, release your brakes and try to swerve behind the animal. You’ll need enough room on the road, though, so if there isn’t enough and it’s impossible to avoid a crash, you’ll need to keep your eyes up and make your bike as stable as possible for the impact.

The three people who have died in crashes with animals are only a small fraction of this year’s 40 motorcycle fatalities thus far. This year’s totals are looking much lower than last year’s – there were 57 at this time in 2018, according to preliminary numbers – but we’d like to see that number disappear entirely.

Wearing a helmet is one way to help realize that goal. Of the 40 motorcyclists killed this year, 27 of them were not wearing a helmet. And before you think that other vehicles are always to blame, consider that 22 of this year’s fatal crashes involved only the motorcycle (this is another great case for training).

So enjoy the fall weather, but make sure you’re dressed appropriately for those last few motorcycle rides and that you keep your best riding strategies in mind. It can be the difference between coming home safely from your ride or not.