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Deer Avoidance Tips

My Close Encounter

Many of you know that, for about two years, I was a member of the Peterson's Harley Davidson Precision Thunder Drill Team. Every Saturday morning, I left my house at 7 am and drove my bike an hour north to practice with my team on an advance riding course. What you may not know is that in April of 2012, my team and I were scheduled to perform during the Leesburg Bikefest. My team was gathered on a Saturday morning getting in one last practice before the show later in the day. A call came in during practice that we wished we didn't get. Bruce Pelish, a member of Peterson's HD Independent Motorcycle Skills Team was killed minutes earlier when his motorcycle collided with a deer while riding with friends through Ocala National Forrest. Bruce was an expert on his motorcycle who also practiced his riding skills on a weekly basis. His tragic story is eerily similar to that of Larry Grodsky. Larry, who owned Stayin' Safe Motorcycle Training in Pittsburgh, had taught thousands of people to ride. He was an instructor, author, nationally recognized safety expert and a member of the then fledgling Pittsburgh chapter of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. Larry was also killed when he hit a deer while riding his motorcycle. What lessons can we learn from the tragic deaths of these two riders?

1. Deer and many other animals travel in groups. If you see one deer, chances are there are more in the immediate area. Slow down and stay alert.

2. Stay alert during early morning and twilight hours especially during the months of October - November and to a lesser extent May - June.

3. If you can't see it, you can't avoid it. LED headlights or high wattage bulbs are a necessity when riding at night. Remember, deer and other wildlife are "designed" to be camoflagued from view.

4. You may have the legal right not to wear a helmet, but how "cool" are you when you're thrown from your bike and suffer a brain injury or worse? A quality jacket, boots and pants are a good idea too! Don't forget that something with reflective qualities is especially helpful if you're riding alone at night and end up in a ditch.

5. Keep your hand covering your front break and foot at the ready for your rear brake when riding through wooded areas or where "deer crossing" signs are present on the road. The time it takes to move your hands and foot to the brakes may make the difference between avoiding a collision or not.

6. If you can't avoid colliding with the animal, don't try to swerve away from it as chances are you may suffer more injuries from running off the road and hitting a tree or something else. Instead, braking as hard as you can without swearving may give you the best chance of surviving a collision with an animal.

7. If riding in a group, always ride in a staggered formation with a minimum of 2 seconds between you and the rider in front of you. During low light times, increase your distance between riders. If a rider in front of you has an accident, don't fixate on them as you will suffer the same fate. Instead, turn your head and eyes to find a way to avoid the accident in front of you.

8. Large animals are more likely to attack you than to run away especially if they are traveling with young animals or in a herd.

Sometimes, the animal you need to avoid isn't alive, but is dead on the road. That happened to me two weeks ago on a beautiful Fall day in Pittsburgh. I fired up my new Street Glide and headed to a local dealership to have my bike dyno tuned. I was cruising at about 65 MPH down a hill when I suddenly noticed something on the road. A curse word, a quick swerve to avoid and then laughing my ass off thinking I almost was taken out literally within hours of publishing an article about motorcycle accidents involving deer. Then I started noticing all the dead animals - another lesson learned! In the summer of 2012, I survived a "close encounter" with a bison while riding my HD Street Glide on the Mt. Rushmore loop. I met up with the bison on a narrow road in a very wooded area inside Custer State Park in North Dakota during the early morning hours. Perhaps, I was simply lucky but here's some of the things I'd like to think I did correctly. I was aware that I would be riding in the early morning when animals are more likely to be active; I discussed this fact with my fellow rider so we would both be alert for animals. A group of riders pulled off the road made me especially vigilant in scanning the road in front of me in the few seconds I had before I came upon the bison. These few precious seconds allowed me to hard brake as far away as possible from the bison. While my fellow rider made the decision to attempt to ride around the bison, I instead chose to hard brake and stop. I did what I thought was right for me instead of following someone else's lead. I couldn't control the fact that the bison chose to charge me, but at least my bike would be stopped if there was going to be an impact.

Let's ride!

I'm very fortunate to be here to tell the story about my encounter with the bison and, more recently, the dead deer. In May, I intend to get back out there in the Pittsburgh parking lots and practice my riding skills. Stay tuned for details if you'd like to join me.

Until then, why not order the Ride Like a Pro video and learn some riding tips from the RLAP team? You may even recognize someone in the video that you might know! LOL

The phrase Biker Chick Lawyer and its accompanying logo are Registered Trademarks of Lisa Marie Vari d/b/a Lisa Marie Vari & Associates.

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