When seeing roadkill, do you swerve, or smush?
May 30, 2016 4:40 PM   Subscribe

From an ecological standpoint: When there is roadkill in the road, is it better to swerve around it, or run over it?

This is gross, sorry. But it's been weighing on my mind. When you see a roadkill-- say a squirrel or a bird, we have a lot of both here-- is it better to swerve around it, because 1. ewww and 2. it's easier for scavengers or cleanup crew to remove in one piece, or.... is it better to aim for it, and smush it more, in the hopes of breaking it down faster so crows and other scavengers can clean it away?

This presumes the roadkill is clearly dead dead DEAD, beyond help.
posted by The otter lady to Science & Nature (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I swerve when it is safe to swerve because I'll never get back the hours I spent scrubbing off gobbets of rotting raccoon that dried in my car's wheel wells.
posted by jamaro at 4:48 PM on May 30, 2016 [11 favorites]

I swerve out of respect for the dead. It just feels heartless to run it over again, even if it is dead.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 4:49 PM on May 30, 2016 [28 favorites]

I avoid running over anything that isn't a smoothly paved road, because you never know for sure that this one time will be non-disastrous.

Seriously, it costs a fortune to replace all the things that can break when you drive over the wrong obstacle.
posted by SMPA at 4:50 PM on May 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

I especially avoid possum carcasses because they might contain live baby possums.
posted by jamaro at 4:51 PM on May 30, 2016 [15 favorites]

If there are no vehicles/people/cyclists around and you are able to safely swerve without hitting someone, then by all means swerve. Because gross, and there's no need to beat a dead squirrel/bird/etc.

If you cannot safely swerve, then oh well. But quietly say/think to yourself "I'm so sorry squirrel/bird/etc" (even though it's probably already dead) and "Oh, gross."
posted by raztaj at 4:52 PM on May 30, 2016 [11 favorites]

I try to avoid carcasses, because there is a small chance of vehicle damage and a larger chance of lingering grossness. But I will aim to hit badly injured animals that were hit by some other car in order to put them out of their misery.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:55 PM on May 30, 2016

(Assuming we are talking about small animals, of course.)
posted by Dip Flash at 4:55 PM on May 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

From a food chain ecological perspective? It makes no difference. At all. Nature is phenomenally good at scavenging and breaking down corpses and loads of animals have been evolved to do such a task, so no slight change in your actions will make any difference whatsoever. Critters and insects will clear it up in no time.

I guess, strictly speaking, moving the road kill to the side of the road so the animals cleaning it up and eating it don't also get squashed would be the best option for all of the animals involved, but that isn't one of your options.

From the other factors - swerving is potentially dangerous, so running over the carcass should be your default reaction, mainly because you need to consciously assess the ability to swerve safely before doing it. If you generate the response to instinctively swerve there is every chance you will endanger yourself and others at some point. Muscle memory is a weird thing, it is better to actively decide to swerve (and save your car getting dirty etc) than do it as a knee jerk reaction.
posted by Brockles at 4:57 PM on May 30, 2016 [7 favorites]

I imagine that a roadkill collector would prefer that you swerved, providing that it is safe to do so. Additional smushing is just going to make his/her job that much more difficult. The scavengers will be fine without your additional assistance.
posted by TheCavorter at 4:59 PM on May 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

Swerve or straddle, depending on size and state of...roadkillishness.

Earlier this month, I had to swerve like a madman to avoid a freaking full-grown snapping turtle ambling across the interstate. The guy behind me opted to straddle it, but clipped it with his rear tire, flipping it up and back. How that didn't cause a pileup, I have no idea. Those things can weigh upwards of twenty pounds. Helluva projectile to have flipping up into your car.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:05 PM on May 30, 2016

It depends on the size of it, the location and the other traffic.

Size: if it's big, like a deer or even a full-grown raccoon, I'll do my best to avoid --- partly to avoid risking damage to my car, partly to avoid guts under my bumper, and partly in case the critter isn't really dead.

Location and traffic: it's easier to avoid if it's over on the side of the lane, less so if it's in the middle. Assuming it's smallish, I'd rather run over it than risk swerving into another car, but I will swerve if it's safe to do so.
posted by easily confused at 5:10 PM on May 30, 2016

is it better to aim for it, and smush it more, in the hopes of breaking it down faster so crows and other scavengers can clean it away?

I sort of feel like when I am traveling in the car I am not actually part of the circle of life. I'd smush a nearly-dead thing out of mercy but otherwise I avoid them so I don't get them stuck in my car by accident.
posted by jessamyn at 5:43 PM on May 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

From an ecological standpoint, cars and car parts are very expensive.

Also from an ecological standpoint, feeling like I'm respecting nature makes it more bearable to think about other ways to be responsible.

So, I avoid the squish whenever I can do so without risking mishaps.
posted by amtho at 6:07 PM on May 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

I once smushed a pigeon who flew into my front grill and had to use the wipers to clean the.... stuff... off the windshield. I will do anything possible to swerve and avoid.
posted by bendy at 6:23 PM on May 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Related Cracked article: "I Clean Roadkill Off Your Highways: 5 Weird Realities."
posted by Marky at 9:24 PM on May 30, 2016

Motorcyclists are usually assiduous about avoiding roadkill because it can be very slippery and impair the tires' traction. But then, we also have a lot more options to swerve & avoid than cars do, without leaving our lane.
posted by workerant at 9:47 PM on May 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Swerving is likely to cause confusion among other drivers, and you may lose control of the vehicle since you most likely were not planning a sudden maneuver.
If the animal is dead, it is dead, swerving to avoid it is not going to make it feel better.
posted by boilermonster at 9:48 PM on May 30, 2016

Contrary to jamaro's comment, about the only roadkill I will choose to smush additionally IS a possum because ewww. They are just about the grossest things ever.

but as a rule, swerve/straddle as traffic, speed etc. will allow.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:22 AM on May 31, 2016

I swerve or straddle. This is especially dire if it's a skunk.
posted by serenity_now at 9:52 AM on May 31, 2016

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