EACH year there are literally thousands of collisions involving motor vehicles and animals. These crashes result in considerable vehicle repair costs as well as injury and loss of life to both people and animals.
Animal strikes are a major problem and can involve smaller creatures like birds and cats as well as larger critters such as dogs, cattle and horses. Clearly, the bigger the animal, the bigger the danger.
In addition, the type of vehicle you're using can also increase the risks associated with an animal strike. Research shows that there are a significantly higher proportion of motorcyclists involved in animal-related serious crashes compared to all other serious injury crashes.
The other challenge is that animals are by nature, unpredictable. This means that avoiding a collision with an animal rests largely with us humans.
Confronting an animal on the road presents you with a few potential issues.
The question is then, what should you do?
Each situation will be different so it's impossible for us to list every scenario here. You'll need to weigh up your options in the few split seconds you have and make a judgement call on what you can do to best manage the situation.
Above all else, the first thing you must consider is your own safety. If you're driving a car or truck you'll most likely be better off by not trying to swerve or take harsh evasive action to avoid the animal.
A sudden evasive move on the steering wheel could lead to a loss of control and present you with a much bigger problem. Many people have discovered the hard way that trying to avoid a relatively small animal can lead to a bigger crash with a tree or oncoming vehicle.
While it may be unpleasant and unfortunate for the animal, it's much better to stay on course rather than swerving and ending up in a ditch or something much worse like a tree or a post. If a collision is inevitable, all you can do is reduce your speed and try to lessen the force of the impact.
All of this is last minute stuff and like all other aspects of motoring, it's better to focus on prevention rather than cure. Here are some strategies to help you avoid hitting an animal when on the road.
Scan the road environment
Animals can be difficult to see and native animals are very good at camouflage. This means that they can appear quickly from the roadsides and take the oncoming motorist by surprise. Research has shown that wild Australian fauna such as the kangaroo, wombat, wallaby, and emu continue to be among the most prevalent road-kill victims.
So be sure to look as far ahead as you can and scan the side of the road for any signs of activity.
Peak hour for animal traffic
Many animals become more active at dawn and dusk. To make matters worse, our vision is also less effective as night moves into day and vice versa. International studies have shown that night-time travel was found to be a significant risk factor when comparing animal-related crashes to other serious injury crashes. Be extra vigilant during these times and as always, drive to suit the conditions and level of visibility.
What's the environment telling you?
Try to think outside the square and take into account the countryside you're driving in. Is it rural? Is bushland? Could this be 'roo country? Even in the suburbs family pets such as cats and dogs could be just around the corner.
Look for clues
Keep a sharp look out for any early warning signs that animals could be around. Of course road signs can help but other signs could also include a dead animal by the side of road, cattle tracks in rural areas or the reflection of two bright eyes in your headlights.
The list can go on, but you get the point. You'll be amazed how well you can see into the future if you use some forward thinking and watch for any hints from the environment.
Staying within the speed limit will give you more control over your vehicle should you need to brake but it's wise to reduce your speed and "cover" the brake if you notice any wildlife close to the road. Try to anticipate what could happen next and proceed with caution.
Finally, if you do hit an animal or see an injured animal whilst driving you could contact your local council, road authority or animal welfare organisation.
Russell White's experience in the driver training industry spans more than 24 years. He is widely regarded as one of Australia's leading road safety advocates. His business offers the complete range of driver training and fleet management services, visit driversafety.com.au
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.