It’s difficult to say exactly how many animals are hit by cars every year in Australia - estimates place the figure to be somewhere in the hundreds of thousands - but the reality is that it may even be millions. The majority of these are marsupials, Australia’s very own native species. Wildlife have as much right to live in this country as we do, and we obviously should try to avoid hitting animals as much as possible.
Animals on the roads cause a real threat to drivers as well, particularly in remote areas where the roads literally cut through their natural habitats. Often, hitting animals is sadly unavoidable, but there’s plenty that we can do to limit the risk.
According to NSW Roads and Maritime Services, 20% of crashes on rural roads involve an animal, probably because they are simply so unpredictable. If you’re driving along country roads, you should consider limiting your driving to daylight hours. Dawn, dusk and darkness can be particularly dangerous times to drive. Use your lights properly to give you the best chance of seeing anything that could cause a threat to you in advance. Remember, while country roads are the most likely for animals to be on, they can also be on residential streets, or even in tunnels and on bridges.
If you do see an animal on the road (whether alive or already dead) and you’re going at speed, don’t swerve violently to avoid hitting them. This can be upsetting, but sudden movements can cause you to lose control and even cause accidents. In those instances, it’s better to hit the animal than to cause death to another person or yourself. If possible, try to stop the car safely, or slow right down and steer around the animal with full control. This is particularly important if you think you’re going to hit a large animal; striking something big can be fatal to you or others in the car with you. As always, be sure to check your mirrors and be alert so that this doesn’t cause a threat to other drivers.
Follow the road rules as you usually would. Take notice of signs that may warn you of areas where animals are present, but also make sure that you’re being perceptive as well - there won’t always be road markings. Animals often travel in groups, so if you see one, that’s a good indication that others may be around. If you see another vehicle slowing ahead of you, keep a close eye on them - they may be trying to take extra care because they’ve seen something ahead. Get ready to slow down and stop yourself, until the hazard has gone.
There are other steps you can take to minimise the threat you pose to animals as well. It should go without saying, but littering from your car is an absolute “no”. It’s not only bad for the environment, but it attracts animals to the road. You should of course never drink and drive - accidents of this nature increase around public holidays, and often alcohol is involved.
What To Do If You Hit An Animal
Hitting an animal can be scary, but there are steps you will need to take. First of all, stop your vehicle if it’s safe to do so. If the animal is still alive, call for help. There are a range of wildlife rescue groups that you can call to get them the assistance they may need. If the animal is a domestic pet, such as a cat or a dog, contact the owner, the RSPCA or the police. You can even take it to the closest shelter or vet to get treatment for its injuries.
If the animal is dead, move the animal a few metres away from the road (if it’s safe to do so and you feel able). Dead animals attract scavenger animals, which can cause even more risks. You should also check the pouch of a dead kangaroo, wallaby or wombat as their joeys can live for days in a mother's pouch after death. You may be able to save the baby, if you follow these instructions.
If you see a dead animal on the road with a paint mark on it, this means that it was already deceased before you approached it, and it’s already been checked over by a wildlife carer.
Protecting Your Car
If you follow the above advice, you should limit the risk to animals and to yourself, but what about your car? To take the risks as seriously as possible, always ensure that your car is roadworthy before a long drive. Because your lights are very important when trying to avoid animals, make sure that these are in full working condition prior to setting off.
You should also ensure that you have proper insurance, and check the limitations of the coverage that you have.
If you have any questions, or you need maintenance after running into trouble, you can always visit your local Tyres & More service centre.