6.11.2006,5:33 PM
Deer and Dangers
When a rider goes down, no matter what the circumstances, it reminds us all of the risk we take when we ride. We can moderate that risk to a point with risk management strategies, such as riding gear, how we ride and where we ride. Yet sometimes that is out of our control.

An accident involving two motor vehicles of any kind is a shared responsibility. They don’t happen on their own, despite the word ‘accident.’ Collisions with wildlife stands outside that box because ‘responsibility’ can not be assigned to an animal. Don’t expect a deer to stop in it’s tracks when you sound your horn or turn on your signal. Although they don’t talk on cell phones, they lack the mental capability of reasoning. Animals respond and behave based on instinct and associations. Sometimes they are predictable in their evasive and flight patterns, but most animals are not. Rabbits typically hop away in an erratic pattern of flight, some birds have predictable flight patterns which hunters use as an aid. But deer are much less predictable and more deadly in collisions than rabbits and birds.

A media report* on wildlife and vehicle collisions cites statistics from 2004:

While the government safety data reported 275,000 collisions with animals in 1995, the Insurance Information Institute, a New York based group that looks into various insurance-related issues, estimates that there are 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions each year with deer alone, each costing the insurance industry approximately $2,000 per claim or $1.1 billion annually. Surprisingly, there are a very high number of motorcycle/deer collisions each year and these happen most often in the spring and summer months, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Motorcycle-deer crashes increased 39 percent from 2002 to 2003, and represent 40 percent of the entire increase in all types of motorcycle crashes last year. More than 80 percent of all motorcycle-deer crashes involve an injury. "A majority of the people killed in these crashes weren't killed by contact with the animal," says Allan Williams, the Institute's chief scientist. "As in other kinds of crashes, safety belts and motorcycle helmets could have prevented many of the deaths." And deer are small change in some parts of the country where moose, bear and elk wander the roadsides.

On the ActualRiders forum today, we received word of a fellow rider’s collision last night with a deer. Discussion on prevention ensued but the only consensus was that all riders should be alert and ride slower when passing through deer territory. Unfortunately, deer are now migrating into towns and cities. Their population growth remains relatively unchecked with the decrease in natural predators and human encroachment into their habitats encourage them to move further than normal.Even a ride through town on the bike can be hazardous in the evenings or near sunrise, as the incident reported today demonstrated.

A member of our group has had unfortunate and intimate experience with the dangers of deer and bikes: both she and her husband were involved in deer collisions in separate events. Her comments are noteworthy and reminders for all of us riders:

There is no migratory pattern for deer here in our area. The deer are everywhere and they stay in this area, year round. The most predictable thing about deer, is that they *will* run out in front of you. They tend to wait along the sides of roads, then decide to move when a vehicle comes along. Deer don't zigzag, they run directly across your path, or into you. It's the same way they would do with most predators. Instead of running directly away, they use the *element of surprise* and run towards what they fear, before taking off in a different direction.

Some deer will just stand there while you pass, whereas others may bolt away from the road. Those deer have been around cars and people a long time and have been *conditioned* but even the conditioned deer are unpredictable. The BIG problem is, the deer population has grown so large, that more and more frequently the young and inexperienced deer, are more apt to be alongside roadways. They don't gain experience. Their experiences end, when a vehicle takes them out. And unfortunately that vehicle is sometimes a biker.

Some people believe that they can learn and determine what an animal will do, if they study their habits through reading, etc. But unfortunately deer do not read, nor do they write auto biographies. They do not adhere to rules, regulations or a standard pattern. A person can only watch carefully, while they are riding and try to guess when, where and how a deer will appear on the road.

Until a rider has actually experienced hitting a deer, or being hit by one as I was, it is probably difficult to truly understand what I have said.

Oh, and don't depend on luck or guardian angels. Stay aware, stay alert and never let your guard down.

- Sunny Williams, Texas

* Oh, Deer! Deer collisions costs motorists money and lives. By Cathy Nikkel. autoMedia.com

posted by Macrobe
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