What do you do if you hit an animal while driving?

Published: June 10, 2018
wildlife killed

With drought conditions in some rural areas bringing more animals to the roadside in search of food and possibly water, the risk of grey nomads colliding with the creatures is increasing.

The recent experience of long-term travellers Di & Max W, while extreme, is sadly probably not unique.

“We left Quilpie at 5am one morning and, as we were driving into the rising sun, we unavoidably cleaned up a wedge tailed eagle sitting on road kill, a kangaroo and an emu … all within the first hour,” said Di. “It was a sad situation, but you can’t swerve to avoid the animals or it could have been fatal to both of us and other road users.”

But what should grey nomads do if they do strike an animal?

Last month, a woman who hit a kangaroo with her car on the Monaro Highway in Canberra’s south was then struck by a car herself while she was attempting to remove the dead marsupial from the road.

The woman was taken to hospital with non life-threatening injuries, prompting the ACT Emergency Services Agency’s, Cameron Beresford, to remind people that they were ‘the most important thing on the road’.

“It’s a good reminder that, if you do hit wildlife when you’re driving, don’t put yourself in danger,” he told ABC Radio Canberra.

ACT Parks and Conservation director, Daniel Iglesias, agreed.

“An injured animal is not a pretty sight at all and it can be very distressing, but our first consideration has to be to keep ourselves and others safe,” he said, adding that people should also be careful when tending to an injured animal. “These animals are in a lot of distress, they’ve just suffered substantial trauma and they will often mistake your actions as a further attack.”

Mr Iglesias said while there was no ‘standard response’ when encountering a kangaroo on the road — because there were so many differing factors — his best advice was to ‘slow down and be vigilant’.

“Whilst kangaroos have some degree of road sense, when we are out driving, especially early in the morning and late afternoon, that is the time when kangaroos are out looking for food,” he told the ABC.

The Animal Australia organisation says the best ways for motorists to reduce the risk of animal collisions is:
Be extra wary during dawn and dusk.
Slow down.
Use your lights.
Never throw litter out of your car window.

So how widespread is the problem. The answer is: huge. The Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania  recently launched a campaign to reduce roadkill, saying that 500,000 native animals are killed on the state’s roads each year. That equates to about one dead native animal per head of Tasmania’s population!

And Australian insurer AAMI says that – across all states – kangaroos are reportedly the most commonly hit animal, with four out of five claims attributed to kangaroos. Wombats, cattle and wallabies are also among frequently hit animals.

  • Have you ever hit an animal on the road? Did you stop to check on the mail or to move it from the road? Comment below.
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John Rodgers
4 years ago

I would never swerve (be it that I am driving the cruiser with or without the van) to miss an animal, be it a cat, dog,snake, sheep, cow or any marsupial of any kind.
To many humans are injured or killed due to doing so. Swerve to miss the animal, vehicle rolls with fatal results and the animal injured or not disappears from the scene of the accident. There are so many options as to the cause of the accident, including doing the speed limit at the time.
Sooooo Hold on tight to the steering and DO NOT SWERVE to avoid.
Enjoy or great country.

Dianne Douglass
4 years ago

Went to Tassie recently & the number of small marsupials, pademelons I think, littering the roads was astounding. We saw hundreds of the little dead animals & only about 3 alive & hopping around.

Patrick in the Top End.
4 years ago

I agree with John. A lot of overseas visitors driving their hire 4wd V8 vehicles about the NT swerve to miss just the smallest animal like a lizard and end up in a roll over.
Ive driven NT roads and back tracks for years and just about hit everything from reptiles, wallabies, pigs horse and buffalo. These are not endagered species but Iam. One brumby came over the bullbar and partly through the windscreen. Better to have a banged up front end then being upside down on the side of an isolated road waiting ages for medical help to arrive. Like John said..break hard as much and as safely as you can and hold the streering wheel firmly. Another good hint is to stick to full daylight driving times.

4 years ago

When we were up on the Atherton Tablelands the wallabies were in plague proportions, so bad in fact that I carried a pair of rubber gloves in the car that I used to pull road kills off the road.

I did this for two reasons. Firstly so drivers would not have to swerve around dead animals and secondly to protect wedge-tail eagles in the area.

The wedge-tails sink their talons deep into the carcass when feeding on road kills and are sometimes unable to release in time to avoid getting hit by oncoming vehicles.

4 years ago

Why would anyone need to leave Quilpie at 5am! Come on be sensible, have a bit of a sleep in, catch some brekky, and so let the animals move on into the bush!

4 years ago

“Whilst kangaroos have some degree of road sense”…Mr Iglesias, you clearly haven’t driven where I have driven with roos! Kangaroos have no road sense at all and will be jumping AWAY from the road then do a 180 degree turn and jump into you. My rule of thumb is simple – if (and that sometimes is an “if”) if I see roos on the side of the road I slow down immediately and watch them. Never trust a roo to do anything sensible!

Patrick in the Top End.
4 years ago

Hey Vulcan. You are right about trying judge which way a roo will go…bit like an Emu or a goat. Backing off on the speed helps a lot though…!


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