Drivers in the Hudson Valley have noticed an increase in daredevil squirrels dodging and weaving in front of their cars this week.

With autumn already underway, squirrels busy preparing for the long, cold winter by gathering and storing nuts. Those behind the wheel, however, wouldn't be blamed for thinking it was the squirrels themselves that are really nuts.

This week I've encountered dozens of squirrels running directly in front of my car. These insane little rodents seem to wait on the side of the road until I approach before quickly darting out into the street. Why would they do this? Do they actually want me to run them over? Well, it turns out that they're only trying their best to survive.

According to howstuffworks.com, squirrels are not trying to commit suicide as many people think. On the contrary, the animals are actually using 30 million years of squirrel instincts to keep themselves safe. Thaddeus McRae, a biologist and squirrel researcher at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. says the little "dance" that squirrels do when your car approaches is all part of their survival mechanism.

Squirrels are hardwired to avoid hawks and other predators. Generations of squirrels have passed down DNA that instinctively tells these squirrels to try and "fake out" these predators as they approach. Squirrels don't know what a car is, they only know that it's something big, fast and scary. They don't realize that we're on our way to work. Instead, they think we're an animal hunting them down. When your car comes barreling down the street the squirrel's instinct kicks in and they do the only thing they know; they try to "fake out" your car, hoping you'll fly away like a hawk and bother some other animal.

This instinctual bobbing and weaving works really well against hawks but is terrible at scaring away cars. Sadly, many squirrels are crushed by tires during the fall due to no one's fault but mother nature, who's hasn't yet taught them what a car is.

So, the next time you see a squirrel on the side of the road ready to pounce, slow down (if you safely can) and let him do his little dance before running away. It'll make the morning much less stressful for both of you.