Kangaroos are involved in eight out of 10 car crashes with animals, new figures show.
And the data has prompted experts to renew their warnings as Australians prepare to holiday at home: don’t swerve to avoid an animal.
“You've got a fraction of a second to make a decision, and by that stage it's probably too late any way,” says Russell White, from the Australian Road Safety Foundation.
“It may seem natural to swerve to try to avoid an animal – and of course, none of us want to hurt an animal – but you could end up endangering yourself or someone else by skidding out of control or steering into the path of another car,” he said.
“By all means brake heavily in a straight line to minimise impact, but don’t swerve in case you lose control of the car or steer into the path of oncoming traffic, which could have fatal consequences,” he said.
“We always encourage people to look further down the road, not just off the end of the bonnet, so that you might get a bit of extra warning that could be just enough to avoid a crash.”
If the worst should happen, and an animal is struck by a car, drivers are urged to call the Wildlife Information Rescue Education Service (WIRES) on 1300 094 737 (13 000 WIRES), although judging by the sign in the image below, the phone number varies in each state.
NRMA Insurance research specialist Chris Emerson said as travel restrictions ease and more motorists visit regional areas, drivers need to be particularly cautious if driving at dawn or dusk.
“Animals are unpredictable and can appear out of nowhere, so it’s important to slow down and be aware of your environment especially when you’re driving on roads that aren’t familiar,” Mr Emerson said in a media statement.
“Colliding with a kangaroo is not only traumatic for the driver and the animal, it also causes considerable damage to cars and can also result in serious injury,” he said.
“How you react when you see a kangaroo on the road can potentially save lives. If you see an animal on the road while driving, try to brake, but don’t swerve to avoid it because you could collide with another car.”
Winter is a high danger period for animal collisions, with AAMI Insurance reporting a 15 per cent increase between May and August last year.
Of the more than 13,000 animal strikes on NSW roads in 2019, approximately 85 per cent involved kangaroos – a similar proportion to figures from Queensland and Victoria – according to data from NRMA Insurance.
Data compiled by NRMA Insurance for NSW in 2019 showed the worst areas for animal strikes were Dubbo, Armidale, Mudgee, Goulburn, Muswellbrook.
Data compiled by AAMI Insurance for Queensland in 2019 showed the worst areas for animal strikes were Roma, Goondiwindi, Moranbah, Middlemount and St George.
Data compiled by RACV Insurance for Victoria in 2015-2016 showed the worst areas for animal strikes were Greater Bendigo, Macedon Ranges, Wellington, Whittlesea, and the Yarra Ranges.
In Victoria, the most likely animals to be struck by a car were kangaroos, wombats, dogs, deer and cattle.
In Queensland, the most likely animals to be struck by a car were kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, deer and birds.
Most animal collisions happen near dawn and after dusk, said an RACV spokesperson.
“For kangaroos, the greatest risk periods are around 6am and 6pm. Collisions with wombats peak about 9pm, and incidents involving dogs are fairly evenly spread throughout the day from 8am to 10pm,” an RACV spokesperson said.
In Victoria, RACV Insurance said it received approximately 15 animal collision insurance claims each day in the last financial year, “as the frequency and cost of collisions between motor vehicles and animals increased more than five per cent”.
RACV Insurance says it paid out more than $24 million to members involved in more than 5300 animal collisions in 2015-16 and “the average cost of claims was 2.1 per cent higher than the previous year”.
Advice for drivers:
Where possible, avoid driving at dawn, dusk or night-time as this is usually when animals are most active, and the lack of light makes it more difficult to see them.
In remote areas, consider reducing your speed at dawn, dusk and inside sign posted wildlife areas.
If you see an animal on the road, you should try and brake in a straight line, but not swerve to avoid a collision.
If your car hits an animal contact a wildlife rescue centre such as WIRES on 1300 094 737 or a local veterinarian.
MORE: Road safety