Fall typically means cooler days and beautiful leaves. But, it’s also mating and migration season for deer. Deer are more likely to cross the path of your motorcycle from October through December than at any other time of the year, according to the University of Illinois Extension’s Wildlife Illinois. May and June also bring increased activity, as young deer start moving to new territory.
Help keep your ride safe and follow these motorcycle safety tips for deer season.
1. Be on the Lookout at Dawn and Dusk
Deer are typically most active during dusk and dawn, according to Wildlife Illinois. This movement increases your risk of colliding with a deer during these times of day, says the Insurance Information Institute. During deer season, when the sky is dark or the sun is low, make sure to keep your eyes open for deer.
If you’re driving when it’s dark or the sun is low, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recommends slowing down in areas where deer crossing signs are posted. Wildlife Illinois also recommends scanning the side of the road for deer. You may see “eyeshine” as you ride, which is your headlight reflecting in a deer’s eyes.
2. If You See One Deer, Look for Others
Deer often travel in small herds, says the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. So, if you spot a deer during your ride, slow down. There may be more deer in the area that you haven’t seen yet. Deer often cross roads single file, says Wildlife Illinois. If one crosses in front of you, stop to be sure that more deer aren’t following behind the first.
3. Wear Your Safety Gear
A helmet is an important part of your riding gear, especially during deer season. To make sure your helmet offers proper protection, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) suggests looking for a comfortable, snug fit. Also, make sure the helmet has a DOT sticker, signifying the helmet meets the safety standards of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Help protect your arms and legs by wearing long pants and jackets made of abrasion-resistant materials, as well as motorcycle gloves and boots.
4. Do Not Swerve If a Collision Is Unavoidable
If you see a deer on the road during a ride, do your best to avoid it. However, swerving to miss a deer may not be your safest option, as you want to keep your motorcycle stable. Deer can be unpredictable — sometimes stopping in the road or doubling back, says Wildlife Illinois. Braking until you stop may be the safest approach, according to the Illinois Secretary of State. Also, ride with your hands covering the brakes so that you can start braking as soon as you see a deer, says Cycle World.
5. Ride a Bike With Antilock Brakes
Antilock Braking Systems (ABS) can help you maintain better control of your vehicle when trying to stop quickly, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says ABS prevent a motorcycle’s wheels from locking up in a hard brake, which could mean a serious fall. So, if you’re in the market, consider buying a bike that has ABS.
6. Spread Out If Riding in a Group
While it’s always good riding practice to spread out during group rides, this is especially important if you are riding in the early evening during the fall and early winter. Spacing out riders may help prevent one rider from colliding with others in the group if someone needs to brake quickly. The MSF recommends riding in staggered formation with at least a 2-second following distance between riders.
A crisp autumn day can be a wonderful time to head out on your motorcycle, but it’s important to take extra caution when deer may be nearby. Follow these motorcycle safety tips for deer season to help keep both you and your bike safe.