Canberra is unique among Australian cities in having such large populations of free-ranging kangaroos within its urban area.
Canberra, the ACT and adjacent areas in NSW, are 'hot spots' for motor vehicle collisions involving kangaroos. NSW police have attended far more collisions in the Yass-Goulburn-Queanbeyan area than anywhere else, including other NSW country towns and rural districts. In Canberra, rangers commonly record more than 1,000 roadside kangaroo attendances per year, and estimate there are twice as many collisions as attendances. This is not reducing the kangaroo populations, nor is the annual increase in the number of collisions due merely to expansion of Canberra and increased numbers of cars. The rate of motor vehicle collisions involving kangaroos (per registered vehicle) has been increasing significantly.
In a 2008 telephone survey of 600 Canberra residents, 17 per cent of the respondents who had ever owned an ACT registered vehicle stated that the vehicle had hit a kangaroo on an ACT road. These collisions have economic and social impacts, as well as raise animal welfare concerns. Information and data obtained from motor insurers show that a high proportion of the ACT/NSW 'hit animal' claims come from the Canberra area. Insurers often issue media releases in winter/early spring to warn drivers of the risk.
Factors contributing to motor vehicle collisions involving kangaroos in the ACT include:
- high kangaroo numbers and the extensive open space areas
- high speed roads with frequent traffic
- driver inattention and ignorance of potentially high risk road sections
- driving too fast.
From data collection and analysis in the ACT, New South Wales and some other states, the following observations can be made about collisions with kangaroos:
- the peak time for crashes is between 5:00 and 10:00 PM
- the rate of crashes is higher in winter
- there are more collisions following long periods of dry weather
- there are more collisions with kangaroos near the full moon phase than the newmoon phase.
Kangaroos account for the highest proportion of fatal collisions among all collisions with animals. Collisions with other objects occur either as secondary collisions following a collision with a kangaroo, or as a result of drivers attempting to avoid a kangaroo.
Worldwide, there has been much effort to develop strategies and techniques to reduce the incidence of motor vehicle collisions with wildlife. The closest parallel to the Australian situation is collisions between deer and vehicles in North America and Europe. Techniques used there to reduce collisions have been considered in Australia.
Driver education and the use of fencing and/or underpasses are considered to be the most recommended techniques. However, fencing and underpasses are not suitable in all locations and are expensive to construct and maintain. Wildlife warning reflectors and ultrasonic devices have been proven to be ineffective.