RoadRUNNER Zen Motorcyclist

The Darker Side of Autumn

Oct 28, 2012 View Comments by

When I started riding I had no idea what the term “rut” meant. I knew there were a lot of deer in my home state of Pennsylvania but had no idea that they fought and mated primarily from Mid-October until December. It’s at these times of the year when deer are aggressive and on the move and ignorant of automobiles.

Deer are active around the clock; but less active during daylight, preferring instead to eat and move about at night when it’s cooler. During the rut, however, bucks will chase doe for five to six days prior to mating. During that time they are apt to run headlong into the road at any hour. Deer live their lives in an area between one half and two square miles, females often return to the same spot to give birth, often to twins. Bucks also will mate with several females, staying only long enough to keep other males away before moving on to mate again. When you consider all that you begin to get an appreciation for just how much activity happens from mid-October to December.

Each year in the U.S. there are 1,000,000 collisions between automobiles and deer. Over 100,000 of them occur in Pennsylvania, which puts it near the top of the list for most dangerous roads in the country. The odds of a driver or motorcyclist hitting a deer here are 1 in 86. I’ve mentioned having been hit by a deer in the past. When it happened the deer hit me from the side, which took my bike out from under me, I tumbled and landed head first in the road, sliding 20 or 30 feet and coming to rest in a ditch. I had no notice, no warning, and no time to react. I couldn’t count on my skills to save me. I practice panic stops all the time but no amount of practice can prepare you for your bike instantly disappearing from beneath you.

What prompted me to mention all this is that it’s late October and I see a lot of motorcyclists in my area that ride without helmets; which in my opinion, during the rutting season, (and it is only my opinion) is foolish at best and can be fatal at worst. Had I not been wearing a helmet the people who stopped and helped me up, called 911, and stayed with me until the paramedics arrived could easily have been attending a corpse, or at best, a rider with half a face. I’m not saying that to be hyperbolic, it’s quite simply a fact that gear, not skill or luck, saved my life in that instance.

Last week I read and commented on David Burbach’s post about helmet laws. I applaud him for bringing it up and I’m aware of the passions the topic ignites. I’m not writing this in favor of legislation or to tell anyone what to do. I just wanted to point out to those who may not be aware of it, that during mid to late fall conditions are not the same as they are throughout the rest of the year and special precautions bear consideration.

I’d rather see everyone, at least at this time of year, ride a bit slower and wear all the protection possible for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. I got away with only a broken collarbone and a lot of bruising. It could have been much worse. I hope this post is received as it is intended, as a suggestion and a bit of information. Ride safe.


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About the author

I have been motorcycle commuting since 1998. I created Zen Motorcyclist (formerly Commuting Motorcyclist) in 2011 and work as a motojournalist, software developer, CAD designer and IT/CAD manager in the Surveying and Civil Engineering field.