CRASH COURSE - Police urge drivers not to swerve to miss wildlife

LESS than two weeks after a Callala Beach man died while swerving to avoid a kangaroo, four other people crashed their cars on the weekend in similar circumstances.

Ironically, police responding to one of the accidents on Sunday night had to swerve several times to avoid large wombats on the Princes Highway.

They were on their way to an accident scene in which a 20-year-old man swerved to avoid a wombat on the highway just south of Island Point Road, and rolled his car as it veered onto the gravel verge.

The southbound vehicle flipped and came to rest in the northbound lane about 11.30pm.

A short time later another car rolled on the Princes Highway at Tomerong while trying to avoid an animal, with similar accidents at Woollamia and Pyree over the weekend.

Police said swerving suddenly to avoid a collision was an automatic reflex action but one that could have disastrous consequences, as was seen in the death of Kristoffer Peters on November 7.

He was driving on Callala Beach Road about 11pm when he swerved to avoid a kangaroo, resulting in his Holden Commodore colliding with a tree and catching fire, killing the young mechanic.

Sergeant Mick Tebbutt from the Shoalhaven Highway Patrol said native animals presented an ongoing problem for people driving the region’s roads, and while the best idea was to keep straight and hit an animal venturing onto the road rather than swerving, it was usually not that simple.

“It’s really a reflex reaction to swerve but that can often put a driver in more danger,” he said.

“You shouldn’t swerve at all – the best advice is to hit an animal straight on.”

Sergeant Tebbutt said many accidents happened around Falls Creek, and there may be a case for installing wildlife-proof fencing along the highway.

He said similar fencing had been installed along major roads in the north of the state, “running for kilometres and kilometres”, and it could be valuable in the Shoalhaven.

During yesterday’s Shoalhaven Traffic Committee meeting he called for the fencing to be investigated.

He also raised the prospect of installing more wildlife warning signs beside the region’s roads, but asked, “Do people take any notice of the signs?”

Chief Inspector Wayne O’Keeffe from Shoalhaven Police said people needed to drive more slowly at the times native animals were most active, to reduce the chance of disaster.

While it was difficult to counteract the reflex response to swerve if an animal runs onto the road, Inspector O’Keeffe said that was what needed on many occasions.

“The basic rule is you do what you can, but you don’t put yourself at risk,” he said.

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