Animal Collisions, Roadkill and Kangaroos
The only animal I’ve ever killed was a cat. With my car. While running studded snow tires.
I felt terrible, but it was dark out, and I just didn’t see the feline in time to even attempt saving its life. Since then I’ve come dangerously close to much larger animals: an elk on the side of a North Idaho highway and a number of bucks encroaching on I-90 in Montana and Wyoming. But I’ve never come close to hitting a kangaroo, and I’ve never swerved to hit an animal on purpose.
Unlike some people.
An entertaining, if not slightly disturbing, study by a NASA scientist shows that 6 percent of drivers go out of their way to kill animals with their cars. Why the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is bothering with a roadkill study might be a worthy question, but for now let’s focus on the fact that 60 out of 1,000 drivers purposefully swerved to run over an animal.
The study, by NASA scientist Mark Rober, used rubber turtles, snakes and tarantulas placed on the shoulder of a road. Rober then watched a thousand cars pass, and noted that 60 of them swerved into the shoulder in order to run over the harmless fake animals. Yes, we could do a story on the fact that 940 drivers carried on without attempting animal murder, but that’s not nearly as interesting.
It’s common knowledge among professional (or even good) drivers that you should never swerve to avoid an animal that won’t cause harm to the vehicle if it gets hit. Swerving, especially at high speeds, presents too much risk to the driver, and the life of a squirrel or snake or turtle just isn’t worth it. By the same logic, drivers shouldn’t swerve to hit animals on purpose, either.
Swerving to avoid large animals, like kangaroos and elk, makes sense.
A story about roadkill in Australia says that kangaroos are on the top of the list when it comes to animal/vehicle collisions. Perhaps NASA should commission a study down under involving rubber marsupials and see just how many of those kangaroo deaths are happening on purpose.
Have you ever hit an animal with your car? Are you one of the 6 percent who would do it on purpose?