Friday, August 23, 2013

Deer, Oh Dear!

There are a lot of “booby traps” that the unwary motorcyclist can ride into, including innocuous-looking alleyways, raised pavement edges, railroad tracks, loose sand, sunken manhole covers, tar snakes, and white plastic arrows glued to the pavement. Most of those hazards occur in the city. Out in the country on those twisty back roads we love to ride, we can expect some different types of booby traps.
One major trap that can spring on us is a wild animal, especially wild deer. Deer are so delicate and demure that it’s hard to think of them as a hazard. But when we come upon the sickening sight of a dead deer along the highway, we are again reminded of the danger, both to the animal, and to ourselves.
Animal strikes are a significant hazard for those of us who enjoy long-distance travel. Statistically speaking, vehicle collisions are the major motorcycling hazard, but as motorcycling experience builds and we get a little smarter, our risks of a car/bike collision should decrease. But the risk of animal strikes remains high because animals are so difficult to predict. Wild deer are found all over North America, in large numbers, their population is increasing, and they have habits and instincts that put them on collision courses with motor vehicles.
Photo: Yes, it’s gruesome, but deer strikes are a real threat on country roads.
The typical deer strike occurs with the animal suddenly leaping in front of the vehicle, often at night. The vehicle slams into the deer, with sickening consequences. What’s startling is the amount of damage even a small deer can do to a speeding vehicle. If the motorist happens to be a motorcyclist, the odds are high that both deer and biker will be seriously injured. What’s so insidious about motorcycle/deer collisions is the unpredictability.
You may have ridden for hundreds of thousands of miles, proficiently avoiding thousands of left-turners, alley jumpers, edge traps, graveled corners, and decreasing-radius turns. Then, on some easy country ride, a deer suddenly leaps out of the woods into your path, and Thud! We don’t have reliable statistics on motorcycle/animal collisions, because many accidents don’t get reported. The famous “Hurt Report” gathered statistics from only motorcycle accidents in the Los Angeles area, where there are few wild deer. But animal strikes are a frequent enough problem elsewhere, that we should practice appropriate countermeasures on those rides that take us into deer country.

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