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Keven Moore: Insect phobia causes distracted driving accidents — keep car clean, eyes on the road

Car crash wikipedia1

I read once that a Dutch biologist named Arnold van Vliet tried to estimate how many insects are killed by cars on our highways, and it was that 32.5 trillion insects are killed in the U.S. alone.

Sometimes you are the bug sometimes you are the windshield, so my question is “how many insects kill drivers every year?”

While cell phones have recently sprung up as a common cause of car accidents, I’m here to tell you that insects are another common cause for distracted driving accidents and also needs to be included in the safety conversation.

I have seen the fear of insects cause people to react in some pretty unusual ways but a mother in Syracuse, IN is the winner. In 2015 she leaped from her car while backing out of the driveway when she discovered a spider on her shoulder, leaving her 9-year-old in the vehicle which ran into a school bus.

I read recently on the internet that insects cause over 650,000 car accidents a year, and I can believe it from just my past experiences.

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The year was 1982 and I had taken over the driving duties on a spur of the moment spring break trip to Ft. Meyers, FL. I had been driving for about six hours when I crossed over the Georgia-Florida line. The sun was coming up as I rolled down the windows. When out of nowhere a mammoth-sized insect defied all laws of physics and flew directly inside the driver side window, striking me just above my left cheek, leaving me dazed and confused and nearly causing me to lose control of the vehicle.

Luckily I was able to regain control of the vehicle despite the blurred vision from either the impact (that left a bruise) or from the bug-guts that had smeared across my face and dashboard.

To underscore the severity of insect-causing accidents, just last June I received a call from my oldest daughter that somebody had veered off course on Woodland Ave., rear-ending the back of her car while she was inside a local coffee house.

The young lady driving the other car had admitted to seeing a spider inside her vehicle just seconds before, triggering her to panic, take her hands off the wheel, and causing her to completely total my daughter’s car.

I once witnessed another vehicle traveling about 50 MPH down Man O’ War Boulevard suddenly start to swerve from lane to lane as the driver was attempting to swap at something, causing it to flip three times before coming to a rest upside down.

At the time I had by two oldest kids in the car with me and I jumped out to attend to the two occupants, when the lady in the car came crawling out screaming that that there was a bee in the car. Luckily nobody was hurt, but it definitely emphasized the power of insect phobias.

Insect wikipedia1

In a somewhat dated 2006 Esure car insurance survey, over 1,000 motorists from the United Kingdom claimed that insects are the second biggest disturbance totaling $4 million in damages a year. Nearly 75% of these motorists said that bugs in their car drove them to distraction to the point that 21% actually took their hands off the wheel, while another 4% slammed on their brakes.

The study found that female motorists tended to be more distracted by insects while driving (78 per cent) than men (70 per cent). However, men admitted to having more insect-related accidents than women. Interestingly, more women were concerned about having an allergic reaction if bitten or stung by an insect, whereas more men than women (over two thirds) cited pain when asked about their concerns.

It doesn’t take a swarm of bees or wasps, to cause a fatal accident. All it takes is just one insect to cause an accident if it distracts the driver. Some motorists with a severe case of insect phobia simply panic and lose control of their cars – putting themselves and other road users at risk.

The fear people experience with an insect phobia can be considerably amplified when driving a car, as their feelings of fear and anxiety intensify in an enclosed space, producing the potential for a severe phobic response and considerable level of panic.

To avoid a distracted driving accident due to an insect in your car here are some helpful hints:

Keep your vehicle clean: This is the best way to deter bugs from making your vehicle at home.

Avoid eating in your vehicle: Bugs would not be living in your car unless there is a food source for them.

Vacuum your floorboards regularly – Make sure to keep your carpets and mats super clean! If you have a weak vacuum, use the pay-per-use vacuums at your gas station or car wash. If you see a spider, it’s because they are attacked to other bugs, and those spilled french fries under your seat are attracting them.

Mix up vinegar, lemon and vanilla! Making a solution of vinegar and lemon or vanilla is a great way to keep bugs and spiders out because they don’t like the smells. Just wipe your surfaces with this quick fix. There are other herbs that also turn away unwanted visitors, such as eucalyptus.

Bomb your vehicle: After the interior of your vehicle has been thoroughly sanitized, you could set off one of those time-delay bug bombs inside the car, with the windows closed if you have pest infestation. Then, after several hours, air out the car completely, wipe down everything to remove insecticide residue, and take comfort that your infestation should be ended.

While driving: If you have an insect phobia, keep your windows rolled up at all times. If you detect an insect while driving then slow down and keep your eyes firmly on the road – and not on the insect. Pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so and open all the doors and windows to allow the insect to escape on its own accord.

If you can’t park the car quickly and safely, fully open all the windows to allow the insect to fly out. Remember to try not to panic and swat the insect or wave your hands around to force the insect away. As well as making you feel more frantic, this will irritate the insect and increase the likelihood of a sting or bite.

My only other advice to those of you that have an insect phobia is remember that fear is only temporary, but regrets at 70 MPHs just may hurt a little more than a bite by that insect.

Be Safe My Friends


Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both the Lexington and Northern Kentucky offices. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.

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