Wildlife warn­ing

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Front Page - BY DEAN LAW­SON

Kan­ga­roos and other wildlife at­tracted to road­side verges are the sub­ject of a ma­jor Wim­mera po­lice warn­ing as mo­torists pre­pare for trav­el­ling hol­i­days this Easter.

Po­lice Su­per­in­ten­dent Paul Mar­getts said with ex­pec­ta­tions of a con­sid­er­able in­crease in traf­fic dur­ing the hol­i­day pe­riod, ob­serv­ing a re­gional safety mes­sage of ‘stay straight and brake’ was crit­i­cal.

“We have had an aw­ful start to year with fatal road in­ci­dents with driv­ers crash­ing af­ter try­ing to avoid an­i­mals. At least two of the ve­hi­cles in­volved driv­ers los­ing con­trol and go­ing off the road,” he said.

“This has led to us pro­mot­ing the stay straight and brake cam­paign and what that means is that if you en­counter an an­i­mal on the road do ex­actly that – stay straight and brake. That way, the chances of los­ing con­trol of the car are sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced by not swerv­ing. It is all about main­tain­ing con­trol of the car.

“It might mean hit­ting and killing an an­i­mal, but that is a sig­nif­i­cant lesser of two evils. It doesn’t re­ally need to be said, but feel­ing re­morse for a de­ceased an­i­mal such as a kan­ga­roo is nowhere near as bad as los­ing a loved one.”

Risks

Mr Mar­getts said wildlife was a con­stant road haz­ard but hol­i­day cir­cum­stances and weather con­di­tions had am­pli­fied the risks.

“At the mo­ment it is very dry and an­i­mals are com­ing out of the bush to feed on the green pick gen­er­ated by dew off the road, es­pe­cially at dawn and dusk. There is also spilled food on road­sides and as the weather cools an­i­mals also tend to hang around the roads be­cause they gen­er­ate warmth,” he said.

“Add to this the many events we have on across the Wim­mera that re­quire peo­ple to travel, as well as hol­i­day-mak­ers, and the risks of road in­ci­dents in­volv­ing an­i­mals in­crease.”

Mr Mar­getts said kan­ga­roos rep­re­sented a pri­mary dan­ger but driv­ers could also find them­selves con­fronting large mobs of birds such as galahs, corel­las, cock­a­toos and emus, ducks and in some ar­eas feral deer.

“Then there’s live­stock in­clud­ing sheep, cat­tle, horses and al­pacas and the mes­sage re­mains the same – stay straight and brake,” he said.

Mr Mar­getts stressed that peo­ple should also take note of and fol­low gen­eral hol­i­day-pe­riod safety mes­sages.

“In our part of the world the gen­eral mes­sage for mo­torists plan­ning out-of-the-or­di­nary jour­neys is about man­ag­ing fa­tigue,” he said.

“Be aware of the signs of fa­tigue. When­ever we go on hol­i­days we are do­ing things out of the or­di­nary, trav­el­ling dif­fer­ent times that af­fect our sleep and ac­tiv­ity pat­terns that can put our body clocks out of sync.

“The rec­om­men­da­tion is to take a break at least ev­ery two hours, but it might be less than that. We must be aware of the dan­gers caused by the on­set of fa­tigue.”

Mr Mar­getts said one way of over­com­ing fa­tigue is­sues when trav­el­ling with pas­sen­gers was to es­tab­lish a buddy sys­tem.

“So­ci­ety has in­tro­duced buddy sys­tems to in­crease safety in ev­ery­thing from help­ing chil­dren stay safe at school, div­ing in the ocean to sim­ply climb­ing a lad­der. Driv­ing a ve­hi­cle is a high-risk ac­tiv­ity, so why should it be any dif­fer­ent?” he said.

“Re­mem­ber that hav­ing a buddy sys­tem in­volves plan­ning, so get it or­gan­ised be­fore you hit the road. It might in­volve shar­ing the driv­ing or nom­i­nat­ing driv­ers, de­pend­ing on the cir­cum­stance.”

Mr Mar­getts said peo­ple should also plan ahead if a hol­i­day event in­cluded the con­sump­tion of al­co­hol.

“If you have had a few drinks at, say a race meet­ing, don’t drive. Re­mem­ber to plan. There are al­ways al­ter­na­tives,” he said.

“Last year we had a good Easter on our roads. We re­ally want to repli­cate that this year so ev­ery­one has a fan­tas­tic break where they cre­ate long-last­ing good-fun me­mories and im­por­tantly, re­turn home safely.”

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