Motorists vs critters: When animals and bugs cause crashes

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What do squirrels, spiders, turkeys, ducks, and opossums have in common?

They have all recently caused local drivers to freak out and get in accidents.

And it keeps happening.

Last week, there was a single-car crash in Lititz after a woman lost control of her car while swatting at a spider rappelling down from the roof and hit a tree before crashing into a house, PennLive reported.

In Pennsylvania, spiders – while extremely creepy – are not the real threat to drivers.

It’s deer.

In 2016, Pennsylvania was number three in the nation for deer collisions with about 133,800 deer collisions. Residents had a 1 in 67 likelihood of having a collision with deer, a 4.5 percent increase over the year before. In New Jersey, it is a 1 in 205 chance of striking a deer, State Farm reported.

Overall, there were 1.3 million deer claims reported across the nation in 2016 to State Farm.

The insurance giant doesn’t keep data on bothersome bugs, or ducks that dash into traffic and cause drivers to lose it, hit the brakes or swerve into trees or each other. Deer, elk and moose, on the other hand, cause major damage and are worth tracking, spokesman Dave Phillips said.

Especially when it is mating season and they are in rut. Yup, sex is the driving factor. No pun intended.

“Absolutely for deer,” Phillips said, about the randy behavior. And, the three worst months for collisions are November, October and December, in order, he stated.

Believe it or not, bear are fast becoming a problem for drivers.

They are making more frequent appearance in the Philadelphia area and can be an issue for drivers, especially the hefty ones,  Phillips said.

“And they can do some damage to your car,” he said “They are not cuddly.”

What animals you hit may depend on where you live, Phillips said.

In Maine, collisions with bear are fairly common in the summer, and fall off in the winter hibernation months. Moose crashes are at their height in June. 

Head out to the southwest and armadillos terrorize drivers. And in the south, it is turtles.

The smaller creatures cause the distraction for drivers and that results in the accidents, said Phillips. 

Accident claims are not cheap. The national average cost for 2015-2016 was $3,995.08, down just slightly from $4,135 in 2014-2015, according to State Farm.

In 2015, 186 fatalities were attributed to collisions with animals – eight in Pennsylvania and two in New Jersey, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported

Best practice is to buckle up, stay focused, drive at a safe speed, and keep an eye out for deer during mating season. If an animal appears in front of your car, brake if you can but don’t swerve. That can cause a more serious crash.

And one more thing: Check for spiders before you leave the driveway. 

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