It doesn’t matter how good your driving skills are when animals get into the mix, anything can happen. California’s UC Davis recently reported that “Collisions between vehicles and wildlife cost California $276 million in 2016, up about 20 percent from the previous year, according to an annual report from the UC Davis Road Ecology Center”. That’s just in California, much less around the entire world.
And, far worse than the financial impact is the loss of life, both human and animal. According to the Nation Safety Council in 2017 over 40,000 Americans died in car accidents with 4.57 million receiving life-threatening injuries. The percentage of those that included animals is unknown, but the numbers have to be pretty high. In South Dakota alone the odds of being in an accident with a deer are 1 in 70 according to State Farm. That number drops to 1 in 41 if you frequent the roadways in West Virginia.
The monetary cost from deer alone: The national average cost per claim for 2015-2016 was $3,995.08, down just slightly from $4,135 in 2014-2015. – State Farm.
That’s just one animal in a world full of them. If you drive in the northern part of the US, you need to look out for moose, bear, wild cats and even wild turkeys. If you live outside the US, odds are you might have a car encounter with a tiger, elephant, rhino or even a tribe of wild boar.
16 Bull Over And Put Your Hands In The Air!
Here’s someone who seems to have taken the old saying “take the bull by the horns” totally the wrong way. Years ago, I had just purchased a new (to me – hey, don’t judge!) Acura SUV that was pretty sporty and could really hug the road with Acura’s SH-AWD system. We were cruising down a back road near our house when we came up over a rise and there in the middle of the road about a hundred yards out was a full-on longhorn bull. Needless to say, I slammed on the brakes and we sat for a moment, locked in a staring contest with 1200-lbs of Angus beef – complete with eight-foot “wingspan” of giant horns.
You can bet I put the Acura in reverse and started backing up as fast as I could and got out of there!
Sadly, the driver of this SUV wasn’t able to get out of harm’s (or the bull’s) way before needing to find the number of their local insurance agent. The crazy thing is this was part of Spain’s “Running of the Bulls” – a time where people had all the warning in the world to get their rides out of the way. This driver didn’t bother, and based on the flat tire, cascading fluids and shattered glass the bull left behind, they probably wished they had.
15 Territorial much?
Now let’s turn our focus – or lack thereof – to our next elephant encounter, which happens to be far more malevolent than the circus elephants bred to be nice to humans. This big fella has no such upbringing. In fact, he seems to be downright annoyed a human would dare to drive near his stomping grounds and seems insistent on stomping on the car to mark his territory.
The owner of this ride may have had a brief flash of excitement when they first encountered this monstrous mammal, having that same "circus comes to town" thought we detailed above. However, it wasn’t long before they realized this big fella meant business – and that business was all about demolishing their car. Soon after this blurry shot is taken, the massive mammoth decided to cave in the car’s hood by climbing on it, then have a seat on the roof. With all that damage, it’s a wonder the driver managed to get out without being squished into a paste. But, survive they did, thankfully. Now, if they can just find the number to state farm, file a claim and wait long enough for the ad cycle to work its way through, they can be featured in the next commercial spotlighting crazy animal damage.
14 Moose But No Squirrel
Every time I hear the word moose I think of Rocky and Bullwinkle, the old cartoon from the 1970s (Dreamworks and Amazon just released a new version of it that stays pretty true to the original, for those fellow moose and squirrel fans out there). But, while the cartoon hijinks of Bullwinkle J. Moose were rife with hilarious moments, when you see what a real-life moose does to a car, it’s no laughing matter.
One story has a Moose destroying a Pontiac Grand Am. Based on the condition of the Pontiac , this accident was one of the fatalities in the statistics mentioned above. An average adult male moose can weigh up to three-quarters of a ton! That’s an awful lot of hoof, bulk and antlers for a mostly plastic, glass and sheet metal car like the Grand Am to take on. In fact, a quick internet search brings back dozens of images of cars, trucks and SUVs getting totaled when they hit a full-grown moose. Do yourself a favor and if you drive in moose country, or ever happen to travel into their natural habitat, keep your head on a swivel cause it just takes a split second for a moose to ruin your car and your day. If you’re lucky both you and the moose walk away unlike this moose and the driver of the Pontiac.
13 Moose v F150
As mentioned upstream, taking a car and slamming it into your average non-cartoon character moose is bound to end your trip faster than planned. In the case of a certain Ford F150 owner’s itinerary, not only did it create an unwanted pitstop, it most likely totaled the truck. Having worked for Ford and overseen a collision repair shop in my career, I can guesstimate the damage to this one easily eclipsed the $5,000 mark. The hood, windshield, roof, front bumper, radiator, AC condenser, fan assembly, right front lamp assembly, right front fender and a host of smaller parts associated with those larger ones will all need to be replaced. Sadly, it’s also safe to say the moose is a total loss as well.
Thankfully, Ford does a really good job making the passenger compartment crash resistant to protect the driver and passengers. The front crumple zone (an area designed to crush during an impact in order to absorb the energy from an impact and transmit as little of it as possible into the passenger compartment) did a great job here by giving way to the moose without taxing the integrity of the truck’s cab. It’s hard to know how fast the driver was going but based on the wet road and visible curve to it, odds are they weren’t going highway speeds.
12 Elephants on Parade
Hearing that the circus is coming to town is usually news that brings smiles and excitement. Images of big top fun, animal escapades, death-defying acrobats, the freak show, clowns, fire-breathers and all the rest of the odd and awesome run through our minds when we think about them. Now, we can add to that crazy list of things the circus brings with it: Elephant induced road closures. Technically this wasn’t the fault of the pondering pachyderms, but the human involved in transporting them – or possibly the other human that caused the first human to overturn the truck carrying the elephants to the greatest show on earth.
In this occurrence, the circus truck transporting the parade of elephants engaged in a more than minor fender-bender and found itself in the ditch, releasing its massive ambulatory cargo onto the road above. The elephants then decided to go for a walk, meander around the road, play with the debris on the shoulder and otherwise disrupt the traffic in an altogether unorthodox manner. Now, we’ve all been stuck in traffic jams, by how many of those were caused by circus elephants? I can just hear your boss now “What? You expect me to believe that you were late to work because there were elephants on the road? Were these elephants pink by any chance?”
11 Wild Turkey
When you rent a car and they ask if you want to buy the add-on insurance from the rental agency, chances are “that time I was attacked by a flying wild turkey” isn’t likely a memory that motivates you to buy the upgraded protection. That is unless you’re John Tarabocchia of New Jersey who had exactly that happen to him.
“I thought he would go over the roof of the car - instead he went right into the windshield," Tarabocchia told ABC 7 Eyewitness news reporters.
Cruising down the road with his son in the passenger seat, wife and mother-in-law in the back, after visiting his daughter in college, being attacked by a wild turkey probably never entered his mind as he drove to the airport that day.
“The rear-view mirror broke off, so I looked at the side mirrors. I got over one lane, and finally pulled over to the side. There were some other vehicles on the other lane that pulled a u-turn and came over and assisted us," Tarabocchia added. According to the local sheriff’s department.
"Four wild turkeys were flying across the roadway and this vehicle, the westbound vehicle struck the fourth one in this small flock," said Captain Michael Kellems. Estimates put the bird at 300 lbs – now that’s a serious Thanksgiving feast.
10 Elephants Don't Take The Bus
Just when you thought you were safe in your mini-bus while watching two men ride a seemingly tame elephant, it happens. Like a bad episode of “When Animals Attack”, elephant goes wolverine out of nowhere, tosses both riders and T-bones mini-bus right off the road. Obviously, this elephant doesn’t appear to be wild in the “no one ever attempted to domesticate it” category, but more the “I’m mad as #&$^ and I’m not taking it anymore!” one.
Elephants can weigh in anywhere from three to seven tons. That’s 14,000 lbs. on the top end for those of you who aren’t mathematicians. According to Reuters, this 18-year old one tips the scales at the four-ton mark. Since the average minibus comes in around three-tons, and it’s hard to make one wild with rage, it’s easy to see how this bus got bulled over.
Thankfully, the handlers were able to soothe this not-so-savage beast after it demolished the minibus and everyone appears to have walked away unscathed, if not just a wee bit terrified of elephants for the rest of their lives. Now, like all the rest on our list of animal-induced car carnage, it’s time to call the insurance agent.
9 What is love?
Volkswagens are one of those cars that drivers tend to either love or hate. Many who purchase a VW enjoy them for a long time and replace them with another when the time comes. Others buy one, have a bad experience and never return. While those seem to be the predominant categories when it comes to love and hate with VWs, we’re only talking about humans. At the time of this writing, there was no available statistics or research analysis to go from, but we could verify at least one member of the animal kingdom who loves a Bug – or more accurately it's cousin the VW Polo.
While unavailable at American Volkswagen dealers, the Polo has been a staple in the European market for decades, debuting in 1975. It’s unclear when the elephant in this picture debuted, but the love this pachyderm is showing the Polo is very clear indeed. Since VW has a history of making some pretty remarkable ads (see the Super Bowl commercial with the little kid pretending to be Darth Vader if you don’t believe us), bringing in this VW lover might prove to be the next big thing in automotive marketing. Unless you actually want your vee dub to move, which is hard to do with 10,000 lbs. pinning it to the ground.
8 Kangaroo Krash
While the run of the mill, non-cartoon moose isn’t one for bouncing into traffic like most northerner hemisphere deer, the next entry on our list has that covered by leaps and bounds. Granted, you’re not likely to encounter a kangaroo in traffic during deer season in most areas where the deer and the antelope play. For that, you have to head down under to the Australian outback where drivers need to watch the road for these speedy, ballistic bouncers.
According to SpeedofAnimals.com, a fit male kangaroo can top out at 44-mph while your run-of-the-mill white-tailed deer can only achieve 30-mph. Now, where the deer has the advantage is in the vertical field, not the horizontal one. The average deer can leap up to 15 feet high while the average kangaroo can only go 6 feet.
Either way, that’s a pretty big visual bandwidth you have to keep your peripheral vision locked on when driving in deer or kangaroo territory. This driver not only got taken by surprise, the ‘roo did too, sending him sailing with such force he probably wasn’t much for bouncing or boxing when he finally hit the pavement. Needless to say, watch out when you're cruising down under.
7 Moose Roof
As if our previous moose related entries weren’t enough, here’s one showing what a full grown male moose can do to a sedan. Not only did this one add a custom moonroof to the car, the impact seems to have sheared off the entire front half of the roof, windshield, upper windshield supports and everything else in that region of the car. Closer inspection reveals the sun visor back where the driver’s head should be, so we certainly hope the person operating this ride was able to duck and cover (and they probably wish they were hit by a duck instead of a moose).
According to PressHerald.com, there were 327 moose induced car accidents in the state of Maine alone in 2015. “There were 327 moose-vehicle collisions in this period, 55 of which resulted in human injuries, including one fatality. About a third of all collisions occurred between 8 and 10 p.m.” according to the Herald’s reporters Julie Mccue and Christian Milneil.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to not have anyone attending my funeral simply because I failed to avoid a moose on the loose. To that end, you can bet my hot-rodding won’t be taking me to the back roads of the pine tree state anytime soon.
Traveling to the other end of the country brings us to the habitat of an animal that’s far more streamlined, but far more deadly: the alligator. Florida alone has 1.3 million of America’s 5 million gators running around according to the Washington Post (never saw an alligator in DC outside the National Zoo, so why this is of interest to the city’s largest newspaper will have to remain a mystery).
A quick google search reveals pages of stories of people being injured or worse after their vehicles struck or swerved to avoid striking an alligator in one of the southern states these dinosaur descendants call home. Here’s one of the few that doesn’t involve loss of human life from the New York Post “A driver escaped serious injury when her SUV hit a 9-foot alligator crossing Interstate 75 in Florida. The Florida Highway Patrol said in a news release that 34-year-old lawyer Jennifer Rosinski of Cooper City lost control after hitting the alligator, and the car flipped over multiple times. She somehow escaped with bruises and a cut under her right eye. The alligator wasn’t so lucky. Rosinsky couldn’t believe it. She told the paper she first thought a fox had run in front her vehicle. She said: “I’ve never been in a significant accident before, and the first one I’m in is car vs. alligator!”
5 When Giraffes Attack
Unlike alligators, deer, and moose, the giraffe is hardly an animal we link to motor vehicle mayhem. Well, unless you happen to live I the UK where this particular giraffe v car window event occurred (spoiler alert: the car lost). Maybe this particular member of the last remaining variant of the Giraffa Camelopardalis family is simply protesting the mistreatment of its American cousin Geoffrey the Giraffe of Toys R Us fame now that the mascot of the toy retail titan has been put out to pasture with the bankruptcy of the parent company?
More likely, it’s trying to get into the car to reach for something to eat after the driver failed to do the polite thing and roll down the window to offer the normally gentle giant a bite of biscuit.
Normally when giraffes attack it’s in one of two ways: a very violent kick that can easily kill a human if it lands just about anywhere on the torso, neck or head or by slamming their massive neck against the target. Watching two bull giraffes battle for territorial superiority by bashing each other with their necks like some massive, ungainly, spotted lightsaber duel is a sight to behold. Having a giraffe headbutt your car window even more so.
4 Rocket Racoon
If you live near Diamond Bar California and you used to own a pretty sweet white Ferrari that you liked cruising near Brea Canyon road at 2 am, odds are you also have a love for raccoons that outweighs your love of Italian sports cars. In fact, the imbalance of love for the random racoon may so overshadow the heart you have for the car that you’d be willing to swerve away from the racoon to save its life, even if that meant crashing through a guardrail and down an embankment with your six-figure automobile as you left pieces of it scattered in your wake.
According to ABC Eyewitness News 7 of Los Angeles, that’s exactly what happened here. The news report states “A driver totaled his Ferrari after swerving to avoid a raccoon on the freeway in Diamond Bar early Monday morning. California Highway Patrol officers received a call of a car down an embankment. When they interviewed the driver, he told them he was traveling northbound on the road when the raccoon crossed the highway and the driver swerved out of the way. He said he hit the guardrail and went down the embankment.
The driver was determined not to be under the influence of anything and he wasn't injured in the crash.” But, did they test the blood-alcohol level of the racoon?
3 Spider Woman
While a lot of these are really sad encounters where the fastest of reaction times wouldn’t have helped, in the case of our last entry the reaction time actually caused the collision. According to the Huffington Post “An Indiana woman leapt from a moving car on Friday after noticing a spider on her shoulder, authorities say. Angela Kipp, 35, was backing her Dodge Avenger out of her driveway in Syracuse when she spotted the arachnid, Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department told news station 11 Alive. Kipp’s 9-year-old son moved from the back seat and tried to hit the brakes, but mistakenly pushed down the accelerator, sending the vehicle straight into a passing school bus.”
It’s unclear exactly how many spider or other creepy-crawly caused accidents happen on the roads of the world each year, most likely because the more mundane ones are sensational enough to broadcast and many involved are too embarrassed to tell anyone about them. But, something about tiny, mobile creatures just gives many motorists a serious case of the heebie-jeebies.
Anyone who’s ever experienced arachnophobia can relate, I’m sure. But, this is certainly a cautionary tale that teaches us to try and remain calm in moments of chaos, particularly when they involve animals, arachnids or kids.
2 Get a room!
Speaking of great one-upmanship opportunities, raise your hand if you’ve ever had two cows trying to make a third cow as they make their way into the traffic lane ahead. While this one occurred in Russia, the fact that the United States has nine million cows and 222 million drivers means the odds of you nailing a cow while it’s, well, you know… is pretty high if you live in a rural area. Unfortunately, unlike the deer, if you hit a cow it probably belongs to someone and the two of you get to hash out who pays for the car repair and who pays for the bent bovine.
In this particular case, despite the force of the vehicle and the mass of the cow (an average female cow weighs in at a whopping 1,600 lbs!) the car seemed to sustain minimal damage and the potential mother-to-be walked away from the scene in seemingly good shape – although probably a bit tender(ized). Since the damage from an accident multiplies exponentially with speed, it’s pretty easy to conclude that an impact with a cow at speeds over 40mph could result in serious damage, serious injury and a loss of over a thousand pounds of prime beef.
1 Camel In Tow?
Despite their crazy commercials of all the wild things they’ve paid claims for over the years, I’m not quite sure we’ve seen one where State Farm covers a camel through the roof. Odds are, this isn’t a very common occurrence in the areas known for deer damage. In fact, if you actually survive having your car’s roof torn off after a run in with a wayward camel, you probably will win the “one up” game when a friend starts talking about their latest run-in with a deer.
Now, hitting a deer does have some benefits, just think of all the free venison you could have (if you, a friend or a local butcher know how to properly render it). While stories of hunters packing their freezers full of deer meat are commonplace, the number of frozen packages of camel meat probably isn’t very high.
The weird thing about this in comparison to deer collisions is the terrain context: there probably aren’t too many camels leaping out of the woods onto the road in front of you. In fact, the top speed of a camel, combined with their less than dexterous gait, would seem to make them easily avoidable. So, maybe this driver was busy checking their cell phone for text messages and didn’t see the camel coming.
Sources: The Mirror, Huffington Post, ABC News