Car crashes involving animals are a massive concern in Australia, and they account for around 5-6% of car crashes. This unfortunate situation results from the destruction of wildlife habitats due to bushfires, deforestation, and the prolonged droughts we've seen in the last few years. All these events have left droves of wildlife creatures homeless. Consequently, animals were forced to embark on roadside scavenging for survival, not only for food but also for shelter.
It is difficult to figure out exactly how many animals are hit by cars every year in Australia. Although some reports place the figure at around hundreds of thousands, the probabilities are high that not all kills are reported. The majority of these animals are marsupials, Australia's very own native species.
I think wildlife should have as much right to live in this country as we do. In any case, these crashes do not only hurt the animals but the road users too, one way or another. If it doesn't result in loss of human life or injury, it's reasonably sure to cause vehicle damage. The point is, it's in everybody's interest that these accidents be limited.
So how do we reduce animal crashes?
Here are a few tips:
- Always take it slow when driving at night and in places labelled for wildlife intrusion. It increases your reaction time and also gives the animal time to process the situation.
- Ensure your lights and high beams work well so that you have a clear view of the road ahead. It also warns animals that something is approaching, giving them ample time to run for protection. Once you spot an animal, immediately switch your lights to a low beam and slow down; high beam lights could blind the animal and cause them to freeze.
- If you're able to stop before hitting the animal, put on your warning lights and, if possible, your side beam lights. This provides visibility for the animal to see where to escape. Be a gentleman!
- Use your horn to frighten the animal out of the way, but be sure not to honk at a horse and its rider.
- Brake in a straight line to allow your car maximum braking force and reduce the time needed to come to a halt. In cases where you're unable to stop promptly, braking in a straight line minimises the car's impact on the animal.
- If you noticed the animal too late, avoid swerving. It only increases the risk for you, fellow road users, and the animal itself. You might swerve where it decides to go – you’ll never know. Pick a lane and stay there.
- Be aware of your surroundings, especially when transiting through the forest or grassy areas. Kangaroos and wallabies like to sit on the grass near roadsides and could jump on the road out of anxiety.
- Some of these animals move in groups. If you spot a kangaroo crossing the road, it's a good indication that there might be more of them about to do the same. Like a human baby, young animals might not recognise your car as a threat, so give enough time for them to reach safety.
What animal gets hit by cars the most in Australia?
Kangaroos constitute a significant percentage of car crashes involving animals. NRMA records show that 85% of over 13,000 animal crash cases reported in 2019 in NSW alone involved kangaroos. Estimates from Queensland and Victoria have supported that kangaroos take the major hit from collisions around Australia. I hope we don't crush them into extinction one of these days.
Kangaroos are closely followed by wallabies, wombats, deer, and birds as animals most likely hit by a +car, according to data compiled by NRMA Insurance.
Speaking of birds, the southern cassowary, a native Australian flightless bird found far north of Queensland, is also on the verge of extinction due to road expansions. Research has noted that vehicle collisions have contributed to more than half of their deaths.
Unfortunately, farm animals like cattle and sheep also make the casualty list of animal crashes around. Since drought made their food supply difficult to come-by, farmers were more likely to graze their animals near roadsides.
Who do you call when you hit an animal in Australia?
If you knock down an animal or find an injured animal by the roadside, call the WIRES (Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service), the police, or your local Wildlife Rescue Service. You could also reach out to a vet to find out first-aid procedures to save the animal's life.
What do you do when you get involved in an animal crash?
- Stop the vehicle if it is safe to do so. Check to see the animal. If the animal is alive, call for help. For kangaroos, never approach one except you're confident it's dead, for your safety). If it's dead, check the pouch for young ones considering it's an animal that carries its babies around.
- Keep the distressed animal warm, possibly wrapped in a blanket or box, until help comes. Be aware that any injured animal may be dangerous due to the fear factor.
- If the animal is dead, birds of prey and carnivorous mammals might want to feast on it. Therefore, remove the body from the road to eliminating the risk of a secondary collision. If it's challenging to move, try all possible means to make the carcass visible to oncoming vehicles. Tie a ribbon to it, paint a letter "X" on its body, or whatever else comes to mind.
- Inspect the vehicle to be sure you can continue with your journey. You could still be fined if your headlights don't work as they should. You’ll do well to inspect them before going farther in your journey.
What does the law in Australia say about car crashes involving animals?
There is no particular law about crashes involving animals. But because animals are unpredictable and can show up out of the blue, it is crucial to read road signs carefully as they help to know areas and roads that are more open to wildlife roaming. Keep in mind that it is your responsibility to move a dead animal off the road if possible.
Finally, before embarking on a long drive, ensure that your vehicle is roadworthy to reduce car crashes involving animals, or any crashes at all. Let's not watch these beautiful creatures go extinct. The world is more beautiful with them on it. Consciously act to reduce animal crashes in Australia!
By Damilare Olasinde