Animals and the road - Avoiding the worst case
“I had to swerve a little, there was a squirrel in the middle of the road” that was my response to a nervous driving test instructor who looked clearly shaken by the experience. “You know you shouldn’t swerve to miss an animal of that size” was his eventual reply. Needless to say I failed the test. From that day to this I’ve noticed that the information in the area is not always clear and advice on what to do can sometimes be lacking. What are the top tips to avoid animals? When and where are the risk zones?
Where are the danger and high risk areas?
In most cases where there is active wildlife there will also be a sign like the iconic kangaroo one pictured to tell you what animal or animals to expect. The signs are clear however in some cases they can be missing, this is especially true of more remote areas. In these cases it may you need to be extra vigilant or conduct some research beforehand.
Once you know what animals you are dealing with, its important to think through some of the important elements of the animals. These include how fast the animal is, how big the animal is likely to be, and what will you do if the animal suddenly appears. Thinking these aspects through can help you adjust your driving and will help your reaction time if the event occurs. Rural roads are obviously high risk however time of day and year are also big factors. A great deal of animals in Australia (kangaroos especially) increase their activity during dusk and dawn twilight hours so obviously extra care is needed at these times. It should also be noted that dusk and dawn twilight hours occur during peak traffic in the winter months.
How to avoid animals on the road
Obviously, the tactics you employ to avoid animals on the road will depend on the prevalence and type of animals in the area. In urban areas most animals will be domesticated cats and dogs, in rural areas many will be stock or farm animals and in the outback the animals are likely to be wild. That said there are some general rules to be mindful of once you get behind the wheel.
Here's some top tips from a collection of insurance and automotive sites.
1. Be extra alert on road rises and bends, these can hide animals.
2. Twilight periods of dusk and dawn are statistically the most dangerous.
3. Remain alert on long straight stretches, especially ones with shrubs and bushes on the side.
4. Think of road kill as a warning sign.
5. Remember if you stop after hitting an animal they can become highly aggressive.
6. Be aware of local animal and road clean up services.
Hitting or killing an animal on the road can be a traumatic event for everyone involved, so like with most things preparation is key. For most having a plan will help to overcome the stresses which come with the scenario. Unfortunately there is no hard and fast rule when it comes what exactly to do either during or after the event other than the fact that swerving is not a good idea in the majority of cases. In the end the best advice is to think through the potential scenarios yourself with the information you have about the animal, your vehicle, the terrain and the time of day or year.
Have you ever hit an animal?
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How did you deal with the situation?
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