Wildlife Safety Crossing – There are No Zebras
I think of the vast natural beauty of Tasmania where we were vacationing only weeks ago, as a mystical isle hidden with gems of surprises. Moments that delight us like having to slow to a stop for a fluffy herd of cream-coloured sheep crossing over the dusty trails fringed with scenic ranges and plains enroute to Cradle Mountain. Not one bit did the shameless tourist in us mind—judging from the delightful squeals, the pointing and excited chatter like we were oversized preschoolers, only armed with slightly increased maturity and digital cameras.
The sheep looked flattering from any angle and were a dream to photograph like slowly moving fluffs of wool on legs. Perhaps a little too slowly for us… after what felt like five minutes. Once the last lamb passed, our maniac driver picked up speed, gunning the rocky trails and putting our rental MPV to the rough terrain test like a driver out of one of the world’s premier tarmac rally events, Targa Tasmania. As we charged down hugging cliffs and winding hairpin bends the picturesque scenery was marred only by our bulky van-like people mover — in my mind a graceful Porsche 911 would have perfected the ride and the postcard shot.
Captivating beautiful ocean views as we wound down driving tracks artfully sculptured from cliffs. Nowhere else have I been lately where local nature and wildlife beckoned and discovery awaits — that is until a repeated sighting of roadkill. One was the pitiful bloodied carcass of what was once a wallaby, or could’ve even been a wild hare. A kilometre later, a lifeless wombat that looked like it might have been a few days old. Our skilful driver carefully avoided the foul-looking remains as the rest of us fell silent, suddenly not enjoying the views as much. A distasteful tyre-flattened carcass of a squirrel became a driving distraction as much as they were a road hazard. I felt my stomach churn and reached for a mint in my bag. I was reminded of something I’d read just prior to last Christmas.
In 2010, a Canadian woman and self-professed animal lover who parked her car on a Montreal-area highway to herd a group of ducklings; was convicted and found guilty of tragically causing the deaths of a motorcyclist and his passenger daughter who smashed into her car. Though she had no criminal intention to harm the victims of the crash, she faces a life sentence for her actions.
There’s a good reason our touring maps, tourist information and rental car information booklets carry ample warning on animal alerts along rural highways. Long scenic routes in Tasmania and other parts of our beautiful continent are made up of vast distances through some of the most remote and uninhabited regions of the world. It’s our responsibility as drivers to avoid hazards including stray animals, wildlife or pastoral farm animals. Fortunately for you, 360 Finance will steer you clear of any hazards when it comes to securing your next car finance package, as we know all the ins and outs of hundreds of lending products Australia wide.
Larger animals such as kangaroos, emus, goats, horses and cattle can potentially cause fatal collisions or serious injury. It’s best to limit driving to daylight hours to avoid most nocturnal native wildlife and when visibility is significantly reduced.
Here’s a list of ‘common sense tips’ that are frequently missed, forgotten or dismissed:
Stay Alert & Heed The Signs
Be extra alert and take heed once you come across wildlife signposts along rural country roads or national parks. Especially in drought, animals tend to wander out to roads in search of food and water. Roadkill could be your best warning.
Call the experts
Should you decide to stop and help an injured animal, unless you are a vet, it is best to contact the experts. Be sure to pull over to the side of the road in a safe spot and utilise the phone numbers on this RSPCA hotline list.
Driving Tips To Help Wildlife Safety Efforts
Road rises and bends can conceal animals, so be forewarned to travel at a comfortable, slower speed that allows ample time for braking as animals can ‘suddenly’ appear out of nowhere. Remain alert on long straight stretches, especially ones with shrubs and bushes on the side. Even if visibility is poor, dip your headlights to avoid dazzling the animals who may freeze and not move once distracted by bright lights. Whatever you do, DO NOT swerve. Instead, slow down considerably, sound your horn and prepare to brake in a straight line rather than swerve immediately.
Avoid driving at high risk periods — Dusk & Dawn
The twilight periods have been statistically proven to be the most dangerous as most wildlife are nocturnal and wander around more for feeding.
Other things to note are that if you stop your car after hitting an animal they can become highly aggressive. Also be aware that there could be local animal and road clean up services about along deserted roads and be alert to watch out for service vehicles and staff.
After years of looking at the effect of road accidents on animals, researchers have now turned their attention to the impact on people. They found there were more than 5,000 road accidents involving animals in New South Wales in the decade between 1996 and 2005. As many as 17,000 people were injured in the crashes and 22 people killed. The real toll is likely to be higher.
“People swerve to miss animals and then hit trees so we think the numbers actually are quite higher,” according to Dr Daniel Ramp, a research fellow at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of New South Wales (ABC News, August 2009). The main lesson here is that drivers should not swerve (however the most common reflex of drivers) when confronted with one on the road, as ‘swerving’ to avoid animals on roads have ironically led to more deaths and fatal injuries.
Kangaroos and wallabies are involved in about 60 per cent of the accidents that resulted in human deaths, while straying livestock and horses made up the rest.
If you’re haunted constantly by the ill prospect of kangaroos bouncing out of the blue at your bonnet or cannot avoid frequently travelling along higher risk areas especially in twilight hours, you may wish to consider the option of installing a handy bulbar—more commonly called a ‘Roo Bar’ here. They’re deemed more effective than those gimmicky devices such as a ‘Shu Roo’ which claim to deter kangaroos by emitting high frequency sounds. However a three-year study published by Melbourne University in 2001 found the Shu Roo neither altered the behaviour of kangaroos within hearing range nor made any difference to the number of kangaroos hit by test vehicles driven in four states.
If you ask me, common sense might be our best bet. And the mantra, “Brake, don’t swerve. Brake, don’t swerve. Brake, don’t swerve. Brake…” And of course, animals like ducks somehow find their way home. They wander out to roads for food and water so we humans should never ever misunderstand that for hitchhiking.
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