OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As temperatures begin to drop, you may be planning to take advantage of the fall temperatures to enjoy the great outdoors.
With the summer heat fading, motorcyclists are already planning to get their bikes ready for long rides through the foliage across the Sooner State.
However, there is another group that is out-and-about that could negatively impact your ride.
Recent accidents involving deer
In recent months, there have been multiple accidents, including several deadly crashes, involving deer across the state.
On July 12, 51-year-old Lonny Tech was driving a Polaris Ranger ATV near Calumet in Canadian County when he hit a deer. Tech was pronounced dead at the scene.
On July 31, 65-year-old Jimmy Ireland was killed after his 2009 Victory Vision motorcycle hit a deer while traveling along OK-132 in Grant County.
On Aug. 11, 30-year-old Chad Sinclair was pronounced dead after his 2012 Kawasaki motorcycle hit a deer along Nubbin Ridge Rd. in LeFlore County.
Just last week, a Merritt Public School bus was driving along OK-6 East in Beckham County when it hit a deer. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured in the crash.
According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, there are typically more than 1.5 million crashes involving deer each year, which resulted in 150 fatalities and thousands of injuries.
Deer are on the move
Micah Holmes, Assistant Chief of Communications for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, says encounters with deer happen all too often.
Holmes says collisions between deer and vehicles can happen any time of the year.
However, they are most common in October, November, and the beginning of December when deer are going through the rut and changing food sources.
Drivers and motorcyclists are being warned to pay closer attention to their surroundings around dawn and dusk.
“We tell folks if they see one deer, expect to see more. Deer often cross the roads around the same location, so if you see a deer cross the road at a certain spot that is a good place to look for them to cross again,” Holmes said in an email to KFOR.
AAA says drivers should use their high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic to spot animals sooner. Also, remember to slow down around curves. If you do see deer, a long blast of a horn may frighten them away from the vehicle.
Holmes stresses that if you are in a car, trying to avoid the collision could be even more dangerous than hitting the deer.
Preparation is key
However, hitting a deer can be life-threatening especially for motorcyclists.
Ron Peirce, Motorcycle Program Coordinator for OSU-OKC, says motorcyclists should take extra precautions to protect themselves before they ever encounter wildlife on the roads.
Peirce says motorcycles should be mechanically sound, have excellent tires with plenty of tread, and excellent brakes.
Riders should also make sure they are wearing protective gear every time they get on their bike. This includes a DOT approved helmet, appropriate quality eye and face protection, gloves, jackets, pants, and over the ankle boots.
He says motorcyclists should mentally prepare before each ride, be well rested, alert, and unimpaired. Once on the bike, Peirce says that riders should aggressively search for possible problems and hazards, and prepare for any possible scenarios that could come up.
If you see a deer in the road, slow down and prepare to stop.
“It is usually not the deer you see that are a problem. They often come out of the woods and are not seen until they are on you,” Peirce said in an email to KFOR.
Unique tips for motorcyclists
The best way to survive a crash with a deer is to prevent one in the first place.
Revzilla suggests riders take a hunter education course or at least learn a few tips about deer hunting to better understand their patterns and behaviors.
Since deer are often running from predators, they may zig-zag if they are startled. As a result, it can be very difficult to avoid them altogether.
However, learning a few tips from hunters can make you better prepared for these types actions.
The company also suggests practicing emergency stops with the front brake, which could help if you encounter a deer, but only if you know how to use it.
Revzilla author Mark Gardiner says he prefers to ride as close to the centerline as possible since deer will enter the road from the sides. That way, he says you might have a few extra seconds to prepare and slow down.
He says motorcyclists are most often injured when the bike crashes, not because of the initial impact with the animal. If you are able to keep the bike upright, you have a better chance of escaping injury.
That is easier said than done, but training on your bike can give you a better chance at responding correctly to road hazards.
Peirce suggests motorcyclists enroll in a free training course, which are available for beginners and experienced riders alike.