Hitting an animal while driving is a common occurrence, particularly when driving in country areas.
For information on how to avoid collisions with animals, you can read our post on how to avoid hitting animals.
If the unthinkable does happen, it’s important to know how to handle the situation including authorities to contact and how to treat the injured or killed animal.
Follow these steps to ensure you deal with the situation safely and appropriately.
Pull over in a safe location and put your hazard lights on.
Make sure everyone in the vehicle is ok.
Try to remain calm about the situation. You are not going to get into trouble for accidentally hitting an animal while driving. However, you should ensure the animal is taken care of if it is still alive.
Turn around in your car and slowly drive back to where the animal was hit. This is safer than getting out and walking, as if the animal is still alive it will be stressed, feel threatened and could be dangerous.
Try to assess the situation from your vehicle to ensure it’s safe to exit. If the animal is clearly still alive, it could see your presence as a threat and attack. You should be careful if the animal is young as its parents could be nearby and would react very poorly to finding you near their injured child. Under no circumstances should you approach snakes, monitors, flying-foxes, microbats, large macropods or raptors. These animals require specialist handling and should be rescued by trained wildlife rescuers.
If you believe it’s safe, leave your vehicle and approach the animal with caution. Remain aware that you’re on or near a road and that passing traffic could be a danger to you.
If the animal is dead
If the animal is dead and it is safe to do so, remove the animal from the road so other drivers are not in danger of hitting it or may try to avoid it creating a dangerous traffic situation. It is important to check for baby animals in the pouches of dead animals. If you find an animal alive in a pouch, follow the instructions below on how to respond to an injured animal.
If the animal that has died is a domestic pet, you should try to contact the owner, police or the RSPCA.
If the animal is injured but still alive
Try to maintain a safe distance from the animal while you’re figuring out what to do next. The animal is likely terrified and could see your presence as a threat and try to attack.
Native animals that are injured but still alive should be taken to the nearest vet as soon as possible. Most vets will take wildlife free of charge. You should then contact the Wildlife and Information Rescue Service (WIRES) on 1300 094 737 and they will follow up directly with the vet treating the animal. If you can’t transport the animal safely, contact WIRES and seek their advice.
It is an offence to keep native animals from the wild. They should be given to an authorised carer after receiving immediate vet treatment.
If a domestic pet is injured, immediately take it to the nearest vet. From there you should try to contact the owner, police or the RSPCA.
Damage to your vehicle
Hitting a large animal at speed will likely do significant damage to your car. If possible, take pictures of the scene and document damage to the vehicle so you have evidence for insurance purposes.