Clinton motorcycle rider recalls crash with deer

LANGLEY — Talk about a deer in the headlights.

In a winter full of white-knuckled driver-versus-deer accidents, Edouard Stringer’s head-on crash with an adult doe still has people talking on the South End.

Stringer, who worked for 20 years in construction, was commuting to Edmonds Community College where he was taking computer networking courses. On his way home at about 6 p.m., Stringer was southbound on Maxwelton Road near Drummuir Road. Just before the road curved, he saw a deer step onto the street. Stringer tried to slow down from 45 mph, but the deer was too close for his anti-lock brakes to stop the 600-pound BMW motorcycle.

“Out of the corner of my eye — it was dark — this deer stepped in front of me and I hit it straight in the stomach,” he said.

The bike went down, with Stringer underneath as it slid on the street. His bike’s gear boxes, hard plastic containers on the sides, propped him from the ground just enough that the full weight of the 1200 cc motorbike didn’t grind his right leg and arm into the pavement.

“My instincts kicked in to save the situation,” said Stringer, who had driven the motorcycle for eight years.

Shock set in immediately. He called his wife Challis, who advised him to hang up and call 911. The dispatcher asked if he was OK, which he said he was, and then said a deputy from the Island County Sheriff’s Office would arrive to take an accident report.

Car collisions with deer are common on South Whidbey. According to a Washington State Department of Transportation report, 246 deer carcasses were removed from Highway 525 between 2003 and 2007. Motorcycle vs. deer crashes are less frequent.

“We get those a couple times a year,” said Paul Busch, the assistant chief of South Whidbey Fire/EMS.

“We get them anywhere from no injuries to busted legs and arms.”

Stringer was able to stand up his bike and turn on its emergency flashers. The deer, he said, twitched on the road and was either dead or dying.

As Stringer waited for the deputy to arrive, he said at least five cars passed without stopping. The car that he was trailing stopped a couple hundred feet ahead and he watched the driver take mail out of the mailbox, then get in the car and drive up a driveway.

“One person stopped. Everyone else kept driving on,” Stringer said.

Stringer’s memory of the Nov. 18 crash is spotty at times. He remembers seeing the deer before and after the crash, and not much else. The bike’s slide was detailed by the deputy who showed him the groove marks on the street.

“I see the flash of the deer and I see me on the ground,” Stringer said.

“You could see the grind on the pavement.”

A basic safety lesson for riding a motorcycle is to apply both brakes in emergencies. The 2010 Motorcycle Safety Foundation riding tips manual has three pages which detail emergency braking. One of the concerns of jamming on the brakes is locking them, which Stringer’s bike avoided because it has ABS. Safe driving is vital to avoiding injury, Busch said.

“Those who seem to walk away see the deer in time and lay the bike down,” he said. “And those who get hurt don’t see the deer early enough and go flying into the woods or wherever.”

Just as much as his reflexes, Stringer’s gear saved him from road burn and further injury. The head-to-toe outfit — known as personal protective equipment — of a safe motorcycle rider has several pieces. Stringer, who said he only rides wearing full gear, wore a full helmet, a Firstgear jacket lined with shock absorbent armor, zip-up pants with armor on the knees, leather gloves and calf-high boots.

“The armor is a must-have,” Stringer said.

Another must for Stringer is riding. His no-fault accident hasn’t kept him from riding, yet replacing the $14,500 bike has. When it was evaluated, the repair estimate totaled $80,000 before the mechanic stopped and declared it a total loss.

“I’m a student, so I can’t afford a new bike,” Stringer said. “Now I ride the bus.”

He still rides his dirt bike, however, about twice a month, and Stringer has plans to get another motorcycle at some point. Though, he may want to reconsider his chances. Stringer hit a deer with his truck a couple of years ago, and recently collided with a pitbull on Maxwelton Road while riding his bicycle.

“What is it with these animals?” Stringer asked with a laugh.

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