As many South Africans prepare to hit the roads for their summer holidays, they may be thinking of the usual safety precautions.
Routine checks such as; taking your vehicle in to ensure that everything is in order, making sure you’re well-rested before embarking and also taking breaks during your journey. Still, not many people will consider the possible safety implications of wildlife on our roads. South Africa currently has a severe problem with regards to road-related fatalities, and this epidemic is relevant to wildlife too.
Insurance claims suggest that approximately R82.5 million is paid each year against collisions with wild animals, bearing in mind that the costs of these collisions do not include the actual damages from the wildlife perspective.
To ensure your safety over the holiday period as well as the safety of our wildlife, here are some tips to help you stay safe on the roads:
- Take special care near animal crossing warning signs or signs warning of the absence of fences. The signs are there for a reason.
- Don’t throw food scraps or other rubbish out of your car since it attracts wildlife and increases the risk of roadkill.
- Get in the habit of scanning the roadside as you drive and be exceptionally watchful in areas near thick bush and water.
- If you see one animal, expect that there are others nearby.
- Nocturnal species are the most vulnerable to being hit on roads. Drive a little slower at night and if you see an animal in the way, dim your lights and hoot. Car headlights blind animals so that they don’t always move away.
- If the animal is in your path, brake firmly but do not swerve to avoid it. Sound your horn in a series of short bursts to frighten it away. Provided you can slow down with control, steer around the animal but stay on the road if possible. Watch out for oncoming traffic.
- If a collision seems inevitable, don’t swerve to avoid the animal; your risk of injury may be greater if you do. Maintain control of the vehicle. Report the accident to the police and your insurance company.
- If you hit and injure a wild animal, call the nearest wildlife rehabilitation centre or vet. Be careful of handling potentially dangerous animals yourself. The following numbers are also useful to have on hand in case of an emergency while on the road:
- Bakwena N1N4 toll helpdesk: 0800 225 9362
- N3TC helpdesk: 0800 63 4357
- TRAC N4 helpdesk: 0800 87 2264 or 082 881 4444
Text: Wendy Collinson-Jonker, EWT Wildlife and Transport Programme Manager