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Roadkill is a problem that could be a common occurrence or almost unheard of, depending on where you live. If you live in a densely populated urban area, seeing animals on the road is probably rare. However, if you live in a more rural area, you might be dodging wildlife in traffic regularly. We’re not surprised that some of the states with the highest risk of vehicle-wildlife collisions include rural states like West Virginia, Montana, and South Dakota.

When you hear about car crashes involving animals, it’s usually a large animal like a deer or a bison, which can do serious damage and cause serious injuries. While accidents with large animals cause more damage, it’s more common for smaller animals to be flattened by cars. It’s hard to know the exact numbers, but according to estimates, here are the three most common animals to turn into roadkill.

1. Squirrels

According to the U.S. DOT, there are anywhere from 1 million to 2 million car crashes involving large animals every year, causing about 200 human deaths, 26,000 injuries, and over $8 billion in property damage. However, the most common animals turned into roadkill aren’t so destructive.

Squirrels make for common roadkill for obvious reasons. It’s a common animal that’s small and not too bright. Squirrels run into the road all the time without seeming to understand the risks involved, and they can be killed by small cars moving at low speeds. It’s no wonder squirrels are one of the most common animals to become roadkill.

2. Cats

Stray cats in rural areas are common, and they often wander into the road. Like squirrels, they make common roadkill because they’re fragile enough to be killed by cars moving at pretty low speeds. This is in contrast to large dogs, which are sometimes resilient enough to survive being hit by a car with a low enough momentum.

3. Rats

Unsurprisingly, rats are one of the most common roadkill victims. A rat is another animal that’s abundant, fragile, and unfamiliar with road etiquette. A rat is an animal that you may have run over many times without even realizing it. It’s also an animal that’s pretty common in some big cities with constant traffic, which increases its overall death toll.

Other roadkill-prevalent animals

While squirrels, cats, and rats dominate the top three spots for the most common roadkill, many other animals meet an untimely death on the road. Of course, deer, elk, bears, and bison are the ones that do the most damage to cars and probably cause the most injuries and deaths for humans. The momentum of your vehicle meeting an animal that can weigh hundreds of pounds spells a bad outcome for all creatures involved.

Many other small animals commonly turn into roadkill because of their fragility. These include turtles/tortoises, snakes, birds, and foxes.

Is roadkill preventable?

Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to entirely prevent hitting animals while driving. However, you’ll be better protected from hitting big animals with safety features like adaptive front lighting, automatic emergency braking, and forward collision alert.

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