October 2014 Safety Thoughts

Avoiding Deer

by Dave Hansen, Co-Safety Officer

Have you, members of your family or someone you know had an accident with a deer?  In 2012 there were almost 49,000 deer/vehicle accidents reported in Michigan.  Leading the entire state, there were almost 1,700 deer/vehicle accidents in Oakland County.  In Michigan, a vehicle-deer crash occurred, on average, every 9.5 minutes.

Last year there were 8 deaths and over 1,300 injuries due to deer/vehicle accidents.  Three of those deaths were deer/motorcycle accidents.

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, but the basics apply for motorcycles as well.  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!