A 79-year-old Oklahoma man who stopped to rescue a turtle while driving on Route 66 was sent to the hospital with multiple injuries.
Phillip Smith stopped his Lexus at about 9:45 a.m. while attempting to "save a turtle" that he saw about two miles north of Claremore, according to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol report obtained by the Tulsa World. Claremore is about 30 miles northeast of Tulsa.
While Smith was outside of his car, another vehicle struck his Lexus, KOTV reported. The parked Lexus then struck Smith.
Smith was taken to a Tulsa hospital with multiple injuries to his head, chest and legs, according to the Tulsa World. KOTV reported that Smith was thrown a short distance, and he broke his leg.
The driver and passenger of the second vehicle — a 1999 Chevrolet Silverado — were treated at the scene and released.
State troopers gave both drivers a ticket, according to KOTV. A spokesperson with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding why the drivers were cited.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conversation says drivers should not attempt to move a turtle off the road if there is heavy traffic or if the road does not have a shoulder. If conditions are safe, the department has three tips for moving turtles on the road: Turn on your hazard lights, grab the turtle by the middle part of the shell, and take the turtle to the side of the road in the direction that it was heading.
Drivers can expect to see more turtles crossing the roads in the spring and summer months. Marc Murrell with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism previously told The Wichita Eagle that this part of the year is prime turtle breeding season.
“It’s the same reason we see more deer in November,” Murrell said. “It’s turtle breeding season through April, May and June.”
Murrell said he doesn't recommend stopping to move a turtle because they can bite, but he said it's even more important not to swerve around a turtle.
“More often than not someone will be injured or killed trying to swerve to save an animal," he said. "It’s the same advice we give about baby birds; just let nature be wild. Nobody likes to kill turtles, but I value human life over a turtle’s life.”