Safe Riding

Motorcycles, Deer and Rehab

Written by  April 30, 2010

We've all heard the old saying 'It's not if you're going down; it's when you're going down.' When you ride motorcycles as often as many of us do, this thought is always in the back of our minds; however, I never really took much time to think it until now. As I'm writing this article, one of my best friends is laid up in a rehab facility recovering from two shattered ankles after hitting a deer on his motorcycle. He's going to be out of commission for several months; however, after seeing his bike, and especially his helmet, I realized he was very lucky to be alive.

He is without a doubt the most experienced and safest rider I have ever known, so this accident really hit home and made me sit back and think about how something like this could happen to anyone, including myself. Like my friend, I've ridden motorcycles for over 40 years now and have never gone down (knock on wood), but when a deer jumps out of the bushes right in front of you on a narrow tree-lined road, there's absolutely nothing you can do but hold on. It happened so fast, he didn't even have time to hit the brakes, swerve, or anything.

Thankfully, this is somewhat of a rare occurrence; however, it happens more often than you might think. In the United States, there are approximately 1.5 million vehicle-deer collisions each year, and over 150 deaths. The most recent statistics from the state of Missouri, where this crash occurred, reported that in 2007, Missouri had 3,419 deer-vehicle accidents in which 5 people were killed and 351 were injured. Of those accidents, 72 were deer-motorcycle collisions, and 3 of the 5 fatalities were motorcyclists.

Although there was nothing my friend could have done in this particular situation to avoid hitting the deer, except for maybe taking the interstate rather than the scenic back road (yeah right), below are a few precautions you can take to help minimize your chance of being the next motorcycle-deer accident statistic:
When at all possible, avoid riding on rural roads between dusk and dawn.
Slow down and be alert when riding through areas with high foliage or low hanging branches on the roadside.
When riding at night, slow down, use your high beam as much as possible to light the sides of the roadway and don’t override your lights.
If you see one deer on the side of the road, be sure to slow down, because where there is one deer, there will often be others.
Always wear your helmet.
Try to avoid areas with high deer populations.
If a collision with a deer is imminent, brake and swerve if possible to avoid hitting the animal, but attempt to stay on the road. Running off the road could be more dangerous than hitting the deer.
If you do hit a deer and aren't seriously injured, attempt to get off the road out from traffic and call 911. If you can't get off the road turn on your emergency flashers and stay near your bike until help arrives.

If you ride in areas with high deer population, you are at risk of hitting a deer. However, with these guidelines in mind and a good dose of common sense, you can reduce that risk and keep yourself and your passenger safe.

By Mike Schweder

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