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August 27, 2009

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Kangaroos take deadly road toll

KANGAROOS and wallabies bounding into the paths of oncoming cars are the biggest animal threat to rural Australian drivers, a new study says.

While dogs, cattle, emus and wombats also cause collisions, Australia's leaping national symbol and its smaller kin, the wallaby, led to the most animal-related accidents from 1996 to 2005, according to a study released on Tuesday by researchers from the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

In many areas of Australia, road signs warn drivers to watch for kangaroos, koalas, wombats and emus.

The study, which analyzed road accident statistics in the state of New South Wales, found that animals were responsible for 5,097 accidents that resulted in human death, injury or vehicle damage. The accidents, in which drivers collided with or swerved to avoid animals, injured more than 1,700 people and killed 22, the study said.

Nearly 2,100 of the accidents, or 40 percent, were caused by kangaroos or wallabies, the study said. The animals caused almost 60 percent of the deaths.

Researchers said the toll was likely higher. "Vehicle accidents related to the presence of an animal on a road are significantly under-reported," the study said. "Often, drivers swerve to miss animals only to hit roadside obstacles, such as trees and poles or oncoming vehicles."

Kangaroos and wallabies were followed on the list of accident-causing animals by straying stock such as cattle or sheep, blamed for 1,605 of the accidents, dogs with 533 and riderless horses with 360. Wombats accounted for 149 accidents, followed by emus, cats and rabbits.

Most of the accidents occurred at dusk, when the animals were out looking for food, and accidents were twice as likely to happen in winter when the weather and light were not as clear, the study said.


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