Hop, Skip And Thump: How To Avoid A Close Encounter With A Kangaroo

Australians who live in the bush are used to narrow, poorly-paved roads and regular encounters with wildlife. They develop a range of driving skills that aren't needed in the city. If you are taking a car which has no bull bar protection into the bush, you should be especially careful.

They may be a much-loved icon, but kangaroos cause numerous road accidents and fatalities. In 2009, they were responsible for 60% of fatal accidents involving an animal in New South Wales. Familiarise yourself with safe driving practices for country roads and procedures to follow if you do hit a kangaroo.

Avoid An Encounter

An encounter with a kangaroo is unpredictable and sudden. Even the most experienced bush drivers have serious accidents; however, there are a range of strategies that you can employ to reduce your chances of a collision.

  • The world famous kangaroo road sign is placed in areas where high numbers are evident. Be aware that kangaroos are everywhere in rural areas. The absence of a sign does not mean that you should be any less careful.
  • Kangaroos are most active at dusk and dawn, and during the night. If you are merely touring the countryside, plan accommodation and don't drive at these times. Car headlights blind, confuse or attract kangaroos at night. You won't see Skippy until it is much too late. Ceasing to drive before dusk and starting again after dawn is the single biggest factor that can save you from a dangerous, costly accident. 
  • Kangaroos are more active during the daytime if the weather is cloudy and overcast. Visibility will also be poorer. Consider a change to your travel plans and stop for the day.
  • Slow down. With road trains and poor surfaces, it is advisable to stay below the speed limit even without the risk of animals. If you own a vehicle with a bull bar, do not become complacent. Hitting a kangaroo can still do significant damage to your vehicle and it could be thrown through the windscreen, endangering your life. Drive at a speed which will allow you to brake quickly and safely.
  • Kangaroos are notorious for leaping out of nowhere. If there is long grass on the side of the road, be extra vigilant. Once a kangaroo leaps in front of your car, it cannot go backwards. It is up to you to stop on time so it can hop out of harm's way. If you have passengers, put them on "roo duty". Extra sets of eyes can often avert an accident.
  • If you must drive on a rural road at night, use your high beam lights and peripheral vision, scanning left to right. Make sure that your headlights provide you with good visibility.

In Your Sights

You will almost certainly see a kangaroo on the road at least once if you drive in the bush for a few days. Remain calm and react swiftly.

Once you spot a kangaroo, do not be tempted to swerve. It may go against your humane instincts, but it is always better to hit the animal. Severe accidents occur when cars veer into the paths of trucks or lose control and hit trees. Brake as hard as safely possible whilst blaring your horn. At night, you should also dip your lights so the kangaroo doesn't panic.

If you do manage to stop for a kangaroo, do not immediately drive again. Kangaroos travel in mobs so check that no more are about to cross.

After A Hit

After you hit a kangaroo, move your car safely to the side of the road before you inspect damage. If there is no danger, you can also check on the state of the animal. In the case of a female kangaroo being killed, check that there is no joey in the pouch. A joey can be put in a pillowcase and taken to the vet or wildlife rescue station in the next town.

If your accident is serious, you could wait a considerable time for mechanical assistance or medical help. Always carry a basic first aid kit and plenty of water. Consider buying or hiring a personal locator beacon which can be activated in an emergency as mobile phone coverage in rural areas of Australia is unreliable.

Follow this advice and hopefully you will avoid an encounter with a roo. If Skippy does bounce into you, the damage should be minimal. A smash repairer, such as Brisbane Collision Centre, will be able to put you back on the road in no time.