Driving Safely Around Wildlife on Malaysian Highways
No matter what year it is, when you pick up a local newspaper, you'll probably find articles about wildlife being found dead along Malaysian highways. Quite often, these animals die as a result of being hit or run over by automobiles travelling at high rates of speed along the nation’s many roadways.
Unfortunately, in a collision between wild animals and human-operated automobiles, the danger isn't just on the side of the animal. In the case of larger mammals like elephants, tapirs, bears and others, a collision with a car or a motorcycle can also prove to be fatal for the driver involved. The danger becomes amplified when the driver attempts to swerve into other lanes to avoid hitting the animal, causing a much larger accident involving multiple vehicles.
So in such a high-speed environment, how can drivers navigate highways safely to keep both themselves and those innocent animals safe?
Here are a few things to take into consideration.
As a universal rule, whenever you drive your vehicle should be prepared and operating optimally. In the context of staying safe around wild animals on the journey, you should ensure your visibility is never restricted. Be sure to inspect your car's lights as well as its rear and side-view mirrors. Additionally, your brakes should be working optimally in case you ever need to reduce speed in an emergency drastically.
As a driver, it's essential to prepare yourself mentally for the possibility of facing wild animals on the highway. Part of the danger comes from when drivers are shocked by the unpredictable behaviours of animals, causing them to make dangerous and often fatal driving mistakes.
Remind yourself to be vigilant about looking out for animals in the distance as you drive so that you can get to your destination safely.
Scan the Environment
When driving down long roads for extended periods, it's normal for drivers to 'zone out' a little and lose focus. Ideally, drivers should continuously be 'scanning' the environment ahead of them.
What does this mean?
Scanning the environment means keeping your eyes active and being aware of what is happening at least a half kilometre ahead of your vehicle. Aside from keeping an eye out for slow/stopped cars, this gives you a chance to look out for wild animals on or beside the path you're driving on.
Additionally, scanning also means checking your rear- and side-view mirrors frequently to ensure that you're constantly aware of what's going on around you. Being aware of your surroundings also helps in an emergency, because it may help you to react just in time to steer clear of any dangers on the road.
But what should you do if you notice wild animals in the distance?
First and foremost, the smartest thing you could do is reduce the speed of your vehicle. Driving at lower speeds allows you to react better to whatever dangers you may face on highways in general, and this is especially true when it comes to wildlife.
On the road, a wild animal's behaviours can be quite unpredictable. There's no telling if something might suddenly spook the animal and cause it to dash across the highway right into the path of oncoming traffic. If you're alert and driving at safer speeds, you'll have a much better chance of either steering clear of the danger or of stopping your vehicle altogether.
But this brings up another important question: is it better to steer clear of a wild animal in the middle of the road, or is it better to brake and come to a complete stop?
Steer Clear or Brake?
There is no right or wrong answer here, as both options come with different risks. On the one hand, it's hazardous to swerve your car into other lanes to avoid hitting an animal. Doing this could result in you colliding with other vehicles and even losing all control of your car.
However, if an animal jumps out into the road and you suddenly apply your emergency brakes, you may not have enough time to stop completely. Colliding with a massive animal such as an elephant could be deadly for both you and the animal itself. On top of that, suddenly reducing your speed could simultaneously result in other cars hitting you from behind.
It's hard to say which option is better than the other, especially since it involves making a split-second decision. However, being prepared, staying alert and driving within the speed limit will help you to reduce the risk of an accident taking place. When drivers take necessary precautions to drive safely, both human beings in automobiles and wild animals can coexist safely on Malaysia’s many highways.