Six percent of drivers swerve for roadkill

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rubber turtles

Rubber turtles may be the most beloved of rubber roadside animals. Drivers swerved to crush them less often than rubber spiders or snakes. Image: The Eggplant/Flickr/CC BY ND

A NASA scientist recently conducted an experiment to see how many drivers would swerve to hit a small animal on the side of the road. He found that six out of 100 drivers make a sport of roadkill.

Roadkill Mythbuster

Mark Rober, a Mechanical Engineer for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, conducted the simple experiment on his own. The would-be Mythbuster decided to put an urban myth to the test.

Rober said:

“I read a long time ago that people will swerve more to hit turtles over snakes… as a firm believer in the scientific method, I decided to test this hypothesis.”


To conduct his experiment, Rober put a rubber snake, a rubber turtle and a rubber tarantula on the shoulder of a road. A distinctive leaf was also placed there as a scientific control. Then Rober sat back and observed the reactions of 1,000 passing motorists.


Nearly all the drivers — 94 percent of them —  drove right on by without reacting to the faux creatures. However, six percent did go out of their way to make roadkill out of them.

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Trucks and SUV, Rober noted, did most of the killing. In fact, 89 percent of the time.

Good Samaritan drivers

Some good Samaritan motorists even stopped to save what they thought was a real animal. Imagine their surprise to find a rubber decoy.

Most Samaritans braked for the turtle, at a four percent rate. And 1.7 percent of drivers even stopped to help the snake. None, however, loved a tarantula enough to give it a break.

The unpopular arachnid

Rober noted that more sadistic motorists chose to run over the tarantula than either the snake or the turtle. The spider was flattened by 3.2 percent of the drivers. At least one driver went as far as to get out of his vehicle and throw rocks at the spider before running it over anyway.

According to Rober:

“Tarantulas, I’m going to be honest. You need a new PR firm.”

Myth busted

The rubber snake met rubber 1.8 percent of the time. The turtle, contrary to Rober’s hypothesis, was killed the least amount of times, at only one percent.

Myth busted, but a disturbing statistic exposed. Six percent of drivers will go out of their way to kill a defenseless animal at the side of the road.

‘Roadkill Experiment’


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