By NATHAN JOHN
A petition calling on Roads Minister Luke Donnellan to make Victorian roads safer for wildlife has gathered more than 2600 signatures in two weeks.
The installation of steel panels on existing barrier rails in parts of rural Victoria creates “killing corridors” for animals, said petitioner Marie-louise Ory on change.org.
Trapped by the barriers, the animals linger, posing a threat to their safety and the safety of road users, she said.
Wildlife Victoria statistics show that 24 per cent of 2768 callouts in June concerned animals hit by a vehicle, but it is unclear how many of the 46 per cent listed as “found on ground” may have moved from the road after a collision.
Member of Victorian Advocates for Animals Lawrence Pope said existing barriers were creating tunnels in which wildlife become trapped.
“They’re funnelling them along the road and increasing the time that the animal is spending on the road, with disastrous consequences for the animal and potentially for motor vehicles as well,” he said.
“Any structure that prevents animals from leaving the road is necessarily increasing the risk of collision with motor vehicles.”
Mr Pope acknowledged the panels have been installed with regards to the safety of motorcyclists coming off their bikes, but believes the “tunnels” increase the likelihood of a collision.
“I urge the Minister for Roads Luke Donnellan to get on the job and have these newly installed panels removed and for them to go back to the drawing board and to rethink the issue of improving motorcyclists’ safety.
“Protecting motorcyclists’ safety is an important issue. [They’re] not being protected by increasing the possibility of having an accident in the first place.
“[They] may be protected by having significantly reduced speed limits on these windy roads and perhaps encouraging them to ride more safely, or to padding the posts that they may collide with if they’re unfortunate enough to lose control of their motorcycle.”
Mr Pope said road users must also take responsibility for their own safety and that of animals on the road, particularly when driving at night.
“Take some personal responsibility by decreasing the speed of your motor vehicle," he said.
“We need to show a bit more respect and a bit more adulthood in managing the risks to those other sentient species.”
While motorcycle groups support the use of the barriers to improve rider safety in preference to wire barriers, which have been called "cheese cutters" or "slicers", wire barriers are Government policy.
The state's Towards Zero road safety campaign addresses this issue, and says current research shows flexible barriers are safer for cyclists and there is "no evidence" the wires caused cutting.
State Roads Minister Luke Donnellan reinforced his and the Government's commitment to installing flexible safety barriers, structured around high tension wires, and not flat panels.
“We’re installing flexible safety barriers to save lives,” Mr Donnellan said.
“The evidence shows that flexible safety barriers will reduce injuries and deaths on our roads by around 85 per cent.”
Information provided by Mr Donnellan’s office indicated the flexible barriers are “not expected to impede the movement of native animals” while other measures such as animal underpasses are in place to minimise the dangers posed by wildlife on Victorian roads.
Wildlife Victoria was unavailable for comment.
If drivers hit or encounter an injured animal, Wildlife Victoria can be contacted on an emergency response line at 03 8400 7300.