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Thread: Deer Strike: To swerve or not to swerve

  1. #16
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    I'm with Kevin (Greenwald) on this subject. Although having achieved over 250,000 miles of riding in 38 years, mostly in Wisconsin, I have been fortunate to never have to take evasive action on my bikes. Other than slowing down at night, having extra lights on my bike, watching for where-ever the deer may be (everywhere), and having good/practiced braking abilities, I have been lucky to not have had a bike/deer encounter.

    Can't say the same for cars though, as I have had four deer hits in cars and many more than that in close calls with deer. The latest, early Sept 09, 10am on a bright sunny Friday morning, a good sized buck broadsided my 2007 Ford 500 from my left hand blind side. It simply ran right into the car!! Kamikazee style, or perhaps Taliban style? Also, two of the hits, I swerved to go behind the deer, and the damn thing turned back around and got nailed! So I can't say that swerving is an effective evasive manuever.

    I think the broadside hit has something to do with the way deer see, being that they have an eye more or less on each side of their head. When running, or fleeing a predator, it seems they lack a sense of depth perception. Because why would an animal run directly into something large and moving like a car? I know other car drivers that have been broadsided by deer, at the midpoint of their car. Even heard of car crashing through the side windows of the car.

    Now, as to this comment: "A J Foyt would probably say "aim for the accident, because by the time you get there it will be somewhere else."" I tend to agree. If you feel a deer hit is imminent, brake HARD to reduce the energy of the impact, and aim for the deer's butt. Hopefully it won't be there when you get there!

    Deer hits was discussed at our recent club meeting, as deer strikes have been very high this past month in Wisconsin. In fact, Waupaca county records 10 deer strikes per DAY, 300 a month in one county! One club member brought up the ol deer whistles myth again. I simply cannot put any faith in such a whimsical and unproven gimmick. Especially since the installation instructions say the whistles have to be voer 2.5' apart to be effective. Rely on your smarts and riding abilites. And PRACTICE your riding skills!

  2. #17
    Just me rad's Avatar
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    I ride deer country, twisty two lane redwood lined mountain roads every day. IÔÇÖm either on my motorcycle or my bicycle. I know that if anything is going to take me out on my two wheel machines, it most likely will be a deer. IÔÇÖve swerved and IÔÇÖve braked to avoid deer and even done both in sequence (not at the same time) to miss the forest rats. I donÔÇÖt think there is ÔÇ£theÔÇØ answer on what to do, other than if impact is imminent, get as squared up as possible for a direct hit. IÔÇÖm happy to say that last bit of advice is clearly speculative on my part; I have come within inches of deer, but have not hit one yet.

    If you think you feel vulnerable on your motorcycle in full protective gear, imagine what it is like when you drop out of the mountains, hitting speeds of 50+ mph at times, wearing one of those funny looking bicycle outfits..Yikes. I try not to think about it until Im off the bicycle.

  3. #18
    100,000+ miler 32232's Avatar
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    The only deer I've hit was with my wife's car at about 1:30 on a sunny afternoon. So much for the usual dusk and dawn warnings. It bolted out of a woodlot to the right of the car and I clipped it with the right fender. Those shaped composite headlights are expensive to replace!

    If you see a deer by the roadside up ahead you can slow down and creep by.

    Once they are up close deer are too fast and unpredictable to take take avoidance measures. Brake hard (THIS is the reason for ABS) to reduce possible impact speed and concentrate on steering. That's about the best you could do.

    Remember they are a herd animal so if you see one expect more.
    Last edited by 32232; 06-12-2010 at 10:39 PM.
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  4. #19
    Registered User greenwald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 32232 View Post
    The only deer I've hit was with my wife's car at about 1:30 on a sunny afternoon. So much for the usual dusk and dawn warnings. It bolted out of a woodlot to the right of the car and I clipped it with the right fender. Those shaped composite headlights are expensive to replace!

    If you see a deer by the roadside up ahead you can slow sown and creep by.

    Once they are up close deer are too fast and unpredictable to take take avoidance measures. Brake hard (THIS is the reason for ABS) to reduce possible impact speed and concentrate on steering. That's about the best you could do.

    Remember they are a herd animal so if you see one expect more.
    Excellent advice - thanks for sharing.

    Yeah, "Dusk and Dawn" are not absolutes, but these are the most common times for deer activity, and should be respected.

    However, it doesn't take much (a crashing tree limb, a farmer's dog, hikers, etc.) to spook deer out of the woods and across your path at any time of the day or night.

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  5. #20
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    Reduce your odds

    A tasty solution....
    Eat more of them.
    Lean meat, no steroids - yum!

  6. #21
    It is what it is. Bud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greenwald View Post
    Pretty good advice.

    Spent my whole life motoring around in 'deer country,' so here's a few suggestions:

    1) Before you hit the deer, hit the brakes - HARD! Get on them (ABS a godsend at this moment) and get that bike slowed down as fast as you can - even if you cannot avoid the collison, make it a 30 MPH hit raher than 65.

    2) Duck! Lay down on the tank just prior to contact with a large animal - they often catapult over the bike and the windshield does little to blunt the energy of the beast. Sitting upright, as if a 200 lb. animal is going to bounce off of you, rarely has good results.

    3) Stay on the roadway - often evasive maneuvering results in secondary collisions with trees, fence posts, barbed wire or guardrails and ends up being worse than those dang forest rats. But if not severely injured post-collision, consider rolling off to the shoulder (or median) ASAP after the drama has subsided, lest an unaware following motorist uses you as a speed bump.

    4) ATGATT


    But pffog's advice to stay alert and avoid probable times of interaction is the best.

    Dusk and dawn - premo moments for deer activity, so slow down if you must oeprate within an hour either way of those times.

    Here's a little advice I pass on to BRC students:

    When operating during high-conflict times of deer activity on interstates, ride in the passing lane - deer rarely ambush you from the median - they come flying out of the woods. Put some distance between the treeline and you - gives your peripheral vision more time to assist you.

    Tuck in close behind a semi rig in the dark - let the 18-wheeler blaze a path thru deer country for you.

    Install additional driving lights on your motorcycle - the more ilumination, the better.

    Good luck and may we all ride safe this summer.
    And we all should print this out and paste it on the wall in front of our bikes as a reminder.

    In S. Illinois is thick with wood rats and they are dumb. One certainty you can count on is, if they are running parallel with your direction of travel, they want to cross IN FRONT of you. Has to do with instinct of a prey animal. So slow down and let them cross before they decide to commit suicide by running in front of you.

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    Think I will go to the fridge and get some more smoked deer ham!
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  7. #22
    Outlander Omega Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SIBUD View Post

    In S. Illinois is thick with wood rats and they are dumb. One certainty you can count on is, if they are running parallel with your direction of travel, they want to cross IN FRONT of you.
    The last one of those I saw was 19 inches nose to tail. Shouldn't something that big have brake lights and turn signals?
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  8. #23
    It is what it is. Bud's Avatar
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    Sorry, I wasn't clear. Wood Rat is another name for deer.
    I used to post here, but now I don't.

  9. #24
    Registered User beemermyke's Avatar
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    I commute to work in the dark through deer country, roughly about 10 miles of back country road before I even get into any populated areas. At night, unless there's some other vehicles in my immediate vicinity, I've always been in the habit of staying towards the center of the two lane roads, just inches off to the right of the centerline. A few years back while riding my Concours home late one night, I saw that deer vermin running low and fast coming at me from my left. When I say "saw", I mean it was instantenous. I probably got 2 seconds into a countersteer to the right when it glanced off the back edge of my left saddlebag as it went on by. I was doing about 60mph, and other than the bike shuddering a bit (and my heart rate rising considerably) I survived that one with nothing more than a loosened rivet on that saddlebag. Tough call on "swerve or not to swerve", but my lane position, along with the fact that I had some room to move, may have avoided something much more serious.
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  10. #25
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    had an interesting experience last week while riding a remote mountain road.

    saw the deer, got heavy on the brakes, and slowed as i approached.

    since the road was traversing a mountainside, to the left side was a near-vertical cliff and to the the right was a drop-off... the deer had nowhere to go, so it started running down the road in front of me.

    i followed it for a good quarter mile before it finally found a spot to bound off into the woods. of course, i managed my speed and distance so that i could stop if the deer decided to reverse course.

    they sure are graceful runners and jumpers, and at one point the thing was doing a good 35 mph down the road.

    ian
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  11. #26
    not so retired henzilla's Avatar
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    We just got back from Montana/Idaho...deer are not as big an issue as the bighorn sheep standing in the middle of the road in a mountain curve! WOW

    Deer=graceful...bighorn sheep=WTF?
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  12. #27
    No bugs in winter OHScot's Avatar
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    Watching deer on the road way to close to me for comfort, I observed that the roadway is like ice to a deer. They don't seem to be able to control their direction and really don't have the ability to avoid even if they had the sense to try.

    That said peripheral vision is the one think that saved me several times. I have seen them comming from the side lines. Make sure your helmet does not cut off you vision to the the rear and sides. Measure with you hands with and without helmet. I have had them come from beside me jump a fence and into my path. Have not hit one yet but have slamed on the brakes for all they are worth on a few.

    Strange thing, one road I ride alot has train tracks on one side. When the train is hauling corn the deer come from across the road to get what falls off from the RR crossing. Damn thing is like a dinner bell. I saw more deer hit in that stretch of road then anywhere. Food for thought??
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  13. #28
    Registered User lkchris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 83014 View Post
    In the last 18 months, my wife and I have each hit a deer. In both cases, the car was totaled.
    Things are getting interesting with cars, as electronic stablity control (ESC) becomes the norm.

    Sometimes it's hard NOT to swerve, and my favorite example was one trip through Texas. Was following a pickup pretty closely because was about to pass, when a beer can (surely Shiner or Lone Star but probably not Jax) blew out of the bed and directly toward my face.

    I swerved, and the Mercedes ESC REALLY (and I mean REALLY) took control of the car to keep it pointed straight. Had I still been in my TRX-tired BMW of the early 1980s I'd have done at least a 360 right there. It's pretty cool when ABS can play with individual brakes and do it without you touching the pedal. Thanks again to the Germans, of course.
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  14. #29
    A bozo on the bus deilenberger's Avatar
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    Back to the original question..

    My answer - there is no answer. In many cases there is no time for a decision or even learned muscle memory.

    Swerving brings up hazards on it's own. I often wonder how many "one bike or car accidents" are actually people who swerved to avoid an animal (Bambi likely)? I know this has killed people in NJ because a local police officer was killed this way. The reason for the single-car accident was not in question once they played back the in-car video.. it clearly shows a deer jumping in front of the car, the car swerving and the officer loosing control of the car with the resulting crash.
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  15. #30
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    There are regions and local areas where deer and deer strikes are more prevalent. For instance, deer collisions are much more frequent in Pennsylvania and Texas. Here in the Northwest, those lush farm valleys are prime for deer, who appreciate the nice grass.

    Over the years I've noticed that most riders tend to maintain speed in deer zones, which sets them up for collisions. I happened upon a deer strike a couple of years ago shortly after a rider had slammed into a deer. The rider was lying unconscious across the centerline; the deer was dead in the ditch. Miraculously, the emergency crew arrived, and the rider was transported to a regional hospital ER--and survived.

    But, that occasion certainly got my attention. When entering a signed deer zone, I ease off the throttle and cover the front brake. I've had other riders pass me in such situations. But I believe that braking is my best option. Even if I can't avoid a collision, I want to be going as slow as possible at the point of impact.

    IMHO deer have developed instinctive "wolf evasion" tactics. There is no point in getting excited at the approach of some other animal/vehicle, until it gets within "wolf strike" distance. (maybe 30 or 40 feet) Then, the deer vaults straight ahead, and takes zig-zag evasive leaps that are hopefully impossible for a wolf to predict. My point here is that the instantaneous direction of the deer is intentionally random, so it's unlikely you can choose a path to swerve around it.

    I had a strange (and marvelous) encounter with a buck while driving Sparky the Spyder. The buck leaped across the road behind a pickup and in front of me. I braked hard. But the buck had nowhere to go, since there was a steep bank on the right side of the road. He swung around and I assumed he would leap back across in front of me, but he didn't. Apparently he saw the two bright projector lights on Sparky and froze. I idled on by, and he was frozen like a stuffed deer, not moving a muscle.

    So, yes, brake for deer, but slow when in deer-intensive areas and likely times.

    pmdave
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