What I learned when a kangaroo could have killed me
There was no time to swerve, no time to hit the brakes and no time to think.
At speeds tipping 110 km/hr there was also no way around this being anything but very very ugly.
I barely saw it, but what I did see of it was ENORMOUS.
Then I hit it.
Sutton, on the NSW border with the ACT, is something of a hot spot for ‘roos and the Federal Highway would have to be one of the worst places to come across one.
It was 2am and I’d seen a few earlier on the trip. I was no doubt a little fatigued but the destination – my nephew’s house in Canberra, enroute to the snow that morning, was only 15 minutes away.
But I still didn’t see it coming. Quite literally.
There were to be no greetings. No death stares. No acknowledgments, however brief. Nothing like the horrible moment in my youth when I hit an elderly pedestrian who walked from in front of a bus into my lane. Then time seemed to stand still and we looked each other in the eye both knowing the awful inevitability of what was about to occur. (I struck the poor man and flipped him up onto the footpath. He spent a night in hospital but, thank god, was OK).
The Roo? Not so lucky. First thing I saw was a huge fleshy mass in front of my grill, hearing the dull thud of it hitting the bonnet at pretty much the same time.
Part two was when the kangaroo flipped up from the bonnet (mercifully avoiding the windscreen) and on to the roof, banging its hulking frame down the length of my Subaru station wagon.
There was actually no time for shock – it was more a state of disbelief as I literally drove right through the collision.
Pondering whether we could make it to my nephew’s house in Moncrieff, my thoughts were quickly answered when smoke started billowing from the engine. Just as I was starting to contemplate where and how to pull over my son noticed the Eaglehawk service station to the left and I managed to drive the car in just as the steering started to lock. Good ol’ Subbie.
A quick assessment of the damage suggested I was lucky to get as far as I did. If it wasn’t written off it would have to be bloody close.
My nephew picked us up shortly thereafter and the car was towed to Queanbeyan later that day.
So what of the lessons learned?
They say the best way to avoid collecting some of our native wildlife in these areas is to not drive at dusk or dawn when they’re active – or under the cover of darkness when kangaroos in particular tend to get freaked out by headlights. Fair call, but sometimes unavoidable.
It’s also said you are better off to drive straight through the incident rather than swerve, unless the speed is low enough or you have sufficient time. Through dumb luck I ticked that box there. Sudden swerving can lead to this kind of accident:
Then there’s what to do afterwards. There’s plenty of keyboard warriors on forums out there abusing others for not cleaning up their mess as it were but I’m not going to feel guilty about this one. Not sure how I could’ve gone back safely to a highway in the middle of the night to find out what may or may not have been left behind. This even more so with a child on board and a car rendered unsafe to drive.
What I do know is that this is a far from uncommon phenomenon.
And there’s confirmation that where I came undone is a real red zone – perhaps the worst in the country.
Couple that with the fact that the humble kangaroo is more active in the winter/spring and the extended dry spell in many parts of the east has driven wildlife to seek out water in more further flung places and this was an accident waiting to happen.
And happen to me it did.