Oh, Deer: Missouri Motorcyclists Must Remain Cautious During 2016’s Final Months

Southwest Missouri is in the midst of deer season, which means herds are on the move and motorists more likely to come into contact with the animals as they cross city streets, rural roads, and busy highways. In fact, according to the Springfield Police Department, Missouri motorists are twice as likely to hit a deer during the months of October, November, and December.

The costs of deer and motor vehicles accidents continue to remain high despite the fact the deer populations are seeing a decline in Missouri. Between the years of 2006-2012, Kansas and Missouri’s deer-vehicle crashes totaled 96,632. And in 2013, the Kansas Department of Transportation estimated deer-related crash costs at 77.8 million.

Motorcycles represent a disproportionate number of deer –related vehicle fatalities. Nationwide, 7 out of 10 fatal motor vehicle and deer crashes involve two-wheeled vehicles. In October of this year, a Richland, Missouri man was airlifted to University Hospital in Columbia when a deer darted in front of his motorcycle, and he crashed trying to avoid an impact, totaling his bike.

Experienced bikers learn how to read other motorists, and as they build their defensive driving skills, they learn to anticipate the moves of drivers, expertly avoiding those who pull out in front of them or brake suddenly. But deer collisions are troubling because it’s difficult to predict what an animal will do the moments before (and after) a motor vehicle collision. Ozarks On Two Wheels has assembled some pointers for avoiding collisions with deer this fall, when the potential for encounters increase.

  • Heed deer crossing signs

If you notice a deer crossing sign, slow down and watch for deer along the sides of the road. Deer are most active at dawn and dusk, and the Springfield Police Department states deer-related crashes are most common between the hours of 6 pm to midnight. If you’re traveling during this time period and during deer season, be extra vigilant. Be aware that deer travel in groups, so if you see one, anticipate that that several more may be hidden just out of sight.

  • Brake the deer freeze

Flickering headlights on and off has been known to wake deer out of their trance-like state when they are approached by vehicles. Installing a 100 watt high-beam bulb can also expand your ability to see along road sides where deer may be attempting to cross.

  • Protect Yourself and Your Fellow Bikers

Swerving to avoid animals on the road has been known to cause collisions with other bikers or stationary objects like trees. If a collision is unavoidable, brake hard and stabilize yourself so you can remain upright. If you’re riding in a group, spread out so a downed biker won’t collide with others. And always wear protective gear. One motorcycle blogger described a deer encounter that left him with a dented helmet when the animal’s hoof struck him in the head as it leapt over his bike. Although his neck was wretched and he needed a new helmet, he suffered no permanent damage.

The warm fall weather has led to some choice riding opportunities in the final months of 2016. Ozarks On Two Wheels hopes you’ll help us end this year’s riding season by being proactive about safety.

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