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Include animals in road planning

August 17, 2012

FMT LETTER: From S M Mohd Idris, via e-mail

Accidents involving animals are all too common on Malaysian roadways. The injuries they cause can be severe, including whiplash, fractures, back and spinal cord injuries, brain injuries and wrongful death.

The animals most commonly involved in auto accidents are livestock such as cows and household pets such as dogs and cats and wildlife.

In the vast majority of these incidents it is the animal that is sadly killed or injured, not the driver and passengers of the vehicle involved.

However,  there are a small number of accidents caused by animals where motorists and vehicle passengers are also injured, and unfortunately in some circumstances, killed.

It is well known that cattle moving on the roads are owned by people in the area. Sadly cattle owners allow their animals to stray on the road, reasons being scarcity of grass, grazing land, budget and manpower constraints.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia concurs with the secretary of Malacca Dairy Corporation’s proposal for a listing of all cattle rearers in the states by the Department of Veterinary Services and educate them on the need to keep their animal off roads and highways.

Cattles should be tagged for easy identification of the owners. Stray cattle on the road should be impounded immediately and if owners can be traced  they should be fined heavily. However, authorities should forewarn people before implementing any strict action.

Signages warning motorists have failed to deter accidents which can be pin-pointed to the mentallity of our motorists and bikers. Most of these crashes go unreported because they don’t involve driver injury or vehicle damage and no monetary value is placed on non-human animals.

It is high time to look at our road planning, designing, building, and operations where no minimal thought are given to wildlife habitat destruction and fragmentation in the placement, design and use of infrastructure.

The transportation system has become a barrier to the safe movement of wildlife and companion animals, or pets, in urban, suburban, exurban and rural settings. The response to this problem must begin with an understanding of human and animal behaviour within these ecosystems.

The development of roads  have led to road kills as highways are designed with no consideration for animal traffic.  Reducing  vehicle – animal crashes has never been included into the transportation plan in the past as there is no national standard for reporting animal-vehicle crashes.

The Malaysian Highway Authorities is the statutory body tasked with improving  road safety and to achieve its objective  in the area of road safety.  It must involve the cooperation of state governments, local authorities, government agencies  and stakeholders with the ultimate aim of reducing vehicle-animal crashes through several approaches such as more underpasses and overpasses, fencing, plantings and combinations.

These techniques may be employed in all future road projects to avoid  crashes with a variety of creatures, including pets and small mammals. If serious attention is not given to the increasing deaths of animal crashes,  more animal carcasses will end up on our roads.

The writer is president of Sahabat Alam Malaysia  (SAM)


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