Animal strikes can happen at any time on NSW roads. From an accident with a dog or cat in a residential area to a collision with a cow or kangaroo in rural and regional parts of the state.
It is important to remember that any incident involving an animal could have serious consequences for the wildlife itself, but also the wellbeing of the motorist. Depending on the vehicle's speed, there could also be significant damage to the vehicle as well.
NRMA insurance has found NSW has more than double the amount of animal collisions than any other state. The insurance provider revealed animal strikes were up 12 per cent on 2012, with the animal most likely to be hit being a kangaroo.
NRMA Insurance Head of Research Robert McDonald noted that other animals are also commonly involved in incidents.
"Dogs are the second most likely animal to be hit and we also regularly see insurance claims from collisions with cats, wombats and cattle," he said.
According to the latest NRMA Insurance Claims data, motorists driving through regional and rural areas are more commonly involved in animal collisions. Dubbo attracted the most in 2013 with 206, followed by Goulburn with 144 and Mudgee with 139.
Winter blues across the country
With Australia in the depths of a cold winter, it is interesting to note recent research released by the Royal Automobile Association (RAA). The organisation reports that animal collisions dramatically increase in winter, with July usually attracting the most incidents.
The RAA highlighted data from South Australia, where over the last five years, there have been close to 1,800 animal strike incidents. Although these accidents only make up two per cent of all crashes in the state, the damage they cause is often significant.
Since 2009, there were 41 serious injuries and three deaths as the result of an accident involving an animal.
As there are less daylight hours during winter, rush hour and peak traffic times are overlapping with dawn and dusk and resulting in more vehicle-animal interaction.
RAA Senior Manager Road Safety, Charles Mountain explained that country drivers in particular need to be vigilant.
"It's no surprise that 86 per cent of these crashes occur in country areas, so it's important for country drivers to be extra vigilant as a crash is likely to be a lot more severe if you hit a kangaroo compared to a small domestic animal," he said.
How to avoid animal incidents
Mr Mountain described how all drivers should be aware of the threat animal strikes pose and noted motorists don't expect to be faced with livestock or native animals wandering on the road.
"Animals are more active at dusk and dawn, so if you can't avoid driving in rural areas during these times - you need to reduce your speed and remain alert, particularly on roads with roadside vegetation that can obscure animals," he said.
"Although it is not a pleasant experience to hit an animal or even a bird, don't brake heavily or swerve to avoid striking an animal as this can be extremely dangerous as it can cause you to lose control of the car, or even hit an oncoming vehicle."
What to do if you hit an animal
Motorists need to be particularly careful if they have hit an animal on the road. Animals should be treated with respect and care, but also with trepidation as injured animals can be aggressive and attack without warning.
Mr McDonald described the steps if you have collided with a kangaroo.
"If you hit a kangaroo and it is critically injured, you can call your local wildlife group, Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) or the police," he said.
Motorists can also contact the Traffic Management Centre or the RSPCA for more assistance.