Jun 2006 Safety Thoughts

Avoiding Deer & the Spink Study

by Dave Hansen, Safety Officer

During the ride back from DC for Rolling Thunder, I noted an unusually large number of deer laying on or beside the roads.  In reviewing my list of safety subjects, I noted I havenít talked about deer crash avoidance since October of 2002, so it seemed like a good topic to revisit.

While researching data updates to this subject, I got side-tracked by a report on a study on Michigan Motorcycle Accidents by Sergeant Steven Spink of the Michigan State Police.  I found this report interesting & thought some of you would too.  The report itself, along with the associated appendices total 222 pages.  Many of those pages are graphs & charts, so there isnít that much text to read, but there is more material than I can cover in a 5 minute safety talk.  Therefore, Iíve posted a PDF copy of this report on the Words of Safety page on the Chapter Website.  I would invite you to browse the website & take a look at this report.

Back to the deer issue.  The following remarks are directly from the October 2002 safety talk & can still be found posted on the Words of Safety page.  In fact, to make it easier to find, Iíve included the topic with the link for this talk.

Many people swear by deer whistles.  These are devices that attach to your vehicle that are supposed to alert deer that youíre approaching, get there attention & stop them from running out in front of you.  While we know that, nobodyís figured out how to teach that to the deer; according to the Michigan Deer Crash Coalition, statistics donít support the claims that deer whistles work.  Use them if you want, just donít bet your life on them.

According to the Michigan State Police, in a deer crash situation you should:

         Not swerve (most accidents involving deer are actually caused by loss of control while swerving to avoid the deer)

         Brake firmly

         Hold the steering wheel firmly

         Hit the deer

         Come to a controlled stop

Obviously these recommendations apply for cars & trucks.  Iím not sure Iíd want to hit the deer when on a motorcycle.  So it would appear weíre on our own again with this issue.  I live in rural northwestern Oakland County.  We have plenty of deer up my way.  I ride lots of miles.  Iíve had several deer accident opportunities, but fortunately never hit one.  Hereís my thoughts:

         Avoid traveling at times of highest deer activity if possible

         Be extra alert during times of highest deer activity, not only during dawn/dusk times, but any time after dark

         Slow down, donít over-drive your headlight (under 50 mph after dark)

         Scan the edges of your headlight pattern for both movement & eyes reflecting

         If you see a deer, brake hard but maintain control

         Donít run off the road trying to avoid a deer Ė youíll crash for sure that way

         If you see one deer, expect to see more Ė they usually travel in groups in single file

         Loud pipes Ė despite the controversy I firmly believe loud pipes do save lives by alerting deer of your presence well in advance

         If you have one, play your radio loud

Deer become accustomed to vehicle traffic & donít see cars as a threat.  Be different (loud pipes, loud radio) & the deer should perceive you differently than the vehicle traffic theyíre accustomed to and donít feel threatened by.  No guaranties here.  Deer are unpredictable.  Just slow down & stay alert.  And make sure your hard braking skills are up to the task.

Ride Safe!