Road users have to be attentive to more than the risks posed by other road users.
They also have to be alert to the dangers of animals on the road. As urban areas continue to push outward and displace animals from their natural habitats and as traffic continues to increase every year, collisions between cars and the animals seems inevitable. As we drive outside our urban areas we often see roadkill – animals that have been killed by passing traffic. We might even have had the unfortunate experience of striking a large animal ourselves. Road collisions kill and maim wildlife, pets and humans, and result in millions of rands in insurance claims. These incidents are however mostly under-reported. When a driver swerves or stops to avoid hitting an animal, the resulting mishap is mostly not recorded as a collision with an animal.
Animal distractions and risks are brought about by a variety of animals, from small cats, dogs and even birds to the large cattle, donkeys and antelope such as kudu.
Tips for motorists
There is no foolproof way to keep animals away from the roads. Hoofed mammals that stand high on their legs, such as cattle, horses and antelope such as kudu pose the most danger to vehicle occupants. If they are hit, they can roll onto the bonnet and into the windshield or roof, resulting in extensive damage and serious or fatal injury. Due to their height, their eyes are above most headlight beams.
There are a few suggestions that could assist in protecting motorists:
• Take special care near animal crossing warning signs or signs warning of the absence of fences. The signs are there for a reason.
• Minimize your distractions from passengers, food, and accessories like cell phones. If your full attention is on the road, you’ll be more likely to spot approaching animals with your peripheral vision.
• Get in the habit of scanning the roadside as you drive.
• Vigilance is the first and best defence, especially when driving on unfamiliar rural roads. Ask passengers to help by scanning both sides of the roadway.
• Always obey the speed limit and wear safety belts
• To protect themselves, defensive drivers adapt their speed to conditions and keep alert for wildlife.
• Slowing down a little gives you and the animal more time to react – Be especially cautious at night
• Be aware of your surroundings.
• Be especially watchful in areas near woods and water
• If you see a large animal near the road and think you have time to avoid hitting it, reduce your speed, tap your brakes to warn other drivers and sound your hooter.
Even though the behavior of animals might be unpredictable, there is much safety to be found in preventative measures and community involvement. It is required that farmers and land owners adequately protect road users by looking after fences and gates.
The following suggestions will enhance safety:
• Respect the importance of fences and warning signs next to the road
• Regularly inspect enclosures next to road
• If you are in control of the movement of cattle or sheep across or alongside roads – be attentive to the required regulations pertaining to warning flags etc
• When you lead a horse next to the road always keep yourself between it and the traffic.
• Make sure other road users can see you by day and night. Fit fluorescent/ reflective leg bands to your horse and wear a fluorescent/reflective jacket.
• Do not let your pets out on their own. Keep the pet on a short lead when walking on the pavement, road or a cycle path and keep between the pet and the traffic.
• Make sure that your animals are safe.
• Do not take your animal somewhere that will frighten it. (Article: Arrive Alive)