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.”
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.”