As riders, we know the kinds of hazards we should be looking out for, like bad weather, wayward cars, and debris in the road. But one thing almost nobody is prepared for is an animal darting out in front of them and causing a sudden crash – but accidents like this actually hurt or kill well over a hundred riders every year! So what should you do next time a suicidal animal decides to kamikaze itself into the front of your bike?
Quick – see if you can name the most lethal animal in the United States?
There’s the usual guesses that come to mind of course, things like bears or rattlesnakes. They are dangerous animals of course – should you get into a confrontation with them. But humans frequently don’t, so the number of actual deaths from wild predators like that are quite small; only around 3 people a year are killed in bear attacks, and roughly 5 a year die from rattlesnake bites. Dogs actually kill far more people annually than more intimidating wild animals like bears, wolves, and mountain lions; last year, 34 people were killed nationwide by canines.
But none of those more aggressive-seeming animals comes close to the lethality of the most deadly animal in the country, which is responsible for over 200 American deaths every year. The winner? The whitetail deer.
This may seem hard to believe, until you realize why. The reason deer kill so many humans isn’t through attacks, but by causing vehicle accidents – a staggering 1.2 million deer-caused collisions were recorded in just one year between 2011 and 2012, causing a whopping $4 billion in damage according to State Farm Insurance.
Mind-blowing numbers – but the story gets even better if you’re a rider. While very few car-deer collisions hurt or kill the driver of the vehicle involved, the vast majority of collisions between deer and motorcycles end in either injury or fatality to the rider – 69.9%, according to the Washington state DOT.
So, oddly, not only are deer the most dangerous animals in the U.S. – but motorcycle riders happen to their favorite victims!
But this isn’t something most of us normally think about, so most of us probably don’t have a plan in place for what to do when we suddenly encounter a wild animal in the road. But given this eye-opening information, it would pay to have a plan. Deer are especially dangerous on the roads because of their larger size and the speed at which they move, but animals of all kinds can be a hazard, from squirrels kamimze-ing themselves under motorcycle tires, to a bison charging Harleys at Sturgis – and of course, there is the now infamous video of a dog darting out mid-ride and causing what could have been a very nasty head-on collision between two riders and a semi truck (see video below.)
The bottom line is that animals of all sorts pose a hazard to motorcycle riders, not just because of their unpredictability and the risk of accidents they cause, but because they cause riders to react in dangerous ways, like swerving or smashing on the brakes, causing them to either lose control or hit something else entirely.
So what should you do if you find yourself face-to-face with a suicidal creature in a split-second on your next ride to prevent him from taking you with him? Here are a few tips to help you ride away unscathed:
1) Know when to look out for them.
The real danger with wild animals is in their unpredictability; they can dart out in front of you at any time, from any direction, and force you to lose control. However, there are times when animals – deer, specifically – are most active, and that is when you should be at your most cautious.
Deer tend to be most active during October and November at dusk and dawn, when they are moving between their bedding and feeding areas, which is why deer-related vehicle accidents spike between 5-8am and 5-11pm. However, the statistical spike has more to do with the increase in commuting activity at those times than with the behavior of the deer themselves – as a motorcycle riders, night time in general is when you need to be most on the lookout for darting deer, because not only are they nocturnal creatures, but because your own visibility is also reduced.
2) See more, react faster.
Animals pose a danger to riders because they dart out in front of you so fast, you cant see them, either causing a collision with them, or with something else trying to swerve and avoid them. The best prevention – increase your own ability to see.
If you live in an area with a lot of wildlife and ride at night, you should absolutely invest in some powerful driving lamps, preferably auxiliary lamps that will blast light at the sides of the roads (where animals dart out from) and give you some more time to react. In addition, one simple way to “see more” is to simply ride slower, giving yourself more time to scan, assess, and react.
3) Stop, but don’t swerve.
Deer and other animals cause damage, injury, or create a full-on crash by colliding with a motorcycle, but in many cases, the accident is caused by the driver attempting to avoid hitting the animal – and hitting another car, a tree, or losing control as a result. In other words, you reaction to an animal can be more dangerous than the animal itself!
In a car, the driver is very rarely injured in the impact with the animal, so the most logical course of action is not to swerve, but to simply hit the animal and drive on. Unfortunately, that advice is not best for motorcyclists, because riders are much mre likely to be injured or killed by not only the impact with the animal, but by the loss of control that often follows.
The best course of action is always to avoid hitting the animal, slowing as much as you can, and swerving to avoid an impact as much as possible without leaving your lane or the road. (This is, of course, if you have time to react, which you may not – if an animal jumps out at you before you even see it, just hit that sucker and try to keep the bike upright!)
4) Don’t challenge big animals.
If you come up on a large animal in the road, like cattle, moose, and bison, and have time to stop, don’t challenge them – they may end up attacking you! Even a bluff charge from one of these powerful beasts can startle you enough to make you drop your bike, so just try to get them off the road with your horn if you can, or just wait it out. Better a few minutes late than a dropped bike!
5) And if you happen to come up on a ram blocking your path – back away slowly.
I’ll just let the video of the now-famous “angry ram” do the talking on this one!
Are animals darting out into the road a problem where you live? What do you do to deal with it?