Road users have to be attentive to more than the risks posed by other road users and, now more than ever, they need to be on alert for animals on the road. Urban areas continue to push outward and displace animals from their natural habitats and, as traffic continues to increase every year, collisions between cars and animals seem an almost inevitable consequence.
Although we care deeply about all animals, and would like to see road rights and efforts made to save RTA victims stretch to all species, we are a focus campaign group surrounding cats so we will aim to keep this cat specific.
The simple reason there are no UK laws (yet) protecting cats on our roads is because they do not pose the same threat to vehicles and human life as the larger animals do who are included in the Road Traffic Act. We have long opposed cats being added to the Act, for the simple reason that it protects drivers and not the animals on it. This does not mean cats rights can't, or won't, be legislated. It just means we go about things differently and aim for legislation that puts RTA victims first.
For the sake of cats all over the United Kingdom, we have to look at all angles and advise responsibly and fair. Although we aim to change legislation so that drivers can no longer leave the scene, this sadly won't stop cats being hit by cars. Yes the law will see a reduction in collisions, and cats will stand a much better chance of survival, plus legislation in place may even cause some drivers to drive more cautiously in residential areas, but eradicating collisions all together is something no one could ever stop unfortunately.
This is why all of us owners must take precautions, and do our part. There is no foolproof way to always keep cats away from the roads, but owners can certainly take measures which drastically lower the risk.
Some people believe you should immediately stop or swerve sharply if an animal runs out. Others believe you should hit the animal as human life comes first. Responsible drivers are less likely to be faced with either option as it's much easier to be vigilant and to anticipate cats in the road in the first place, than have to make such a rash, potentially life threatening decision.
We do acknowledge cats dart from under cars, and seem to take crazy chances right in front of traffic. However, in the cats brain, there is actually a logical reason why they do this.....
Cats know their claws and bite are no match for the larger predators they face. This is why they must rely on their speed and agility to outrun the threat. Although few animals are as nibble as a cat, some can rival their speed. So, to run away from an attacker, cats will wait until the adversary is close enough to start the attack, but not close enough to close the deal.
The adversary in this case is the large car coming at speed, as they see it hid under a parked car, right toward them and about to attack!
In that moment, a cat will run past or across the path of the attacker just out of reach. The attacker will then have to change direction which means slowing down or stopping. By the time the attacker has changed course and pursuing the cat, the cat has a massive head start towards any defensive position available.
The problem with cars is their speed and width exceed anything a cat has encountered before and they time their escape route too late.
Although there will always be some cases where a cat is impossible to spot until it is too late, vigilance is key to saving many lives in most situations.
Get in the habit of scanning the roadside as you drive and expect cats to be roaming.
UK law states that all drivers must be able to read a standard number plate from a distance of twenty metres. The thinking and stopping distance of a car driving at 20mph is 12 meters. 30mph is 23 meters. remaining vigilant, and scanning the roadside as you drive, gives you enough time to safely react should you see a cat ahead. If you can't see a cat 20 meters ahead, your either not paying attention to the road or legally you shouldn't be driving on it!
Here are some suggestions for drivers to follow, which in turn gives all vulnerable road users the best chance of not being involved in an accident;
. Vigilance is the first and best defence. It's much easier to anticipate cats in the road and be ready to react calmly.
. Minimalize your distractions from passengers, food, and accessories like phones. If your full attention is on the road, you'll be more likely to spot approaching animals with your peripheral vision.
. Be aware of your surroundings, and always expect the unexpected.
. Always obey the speed limit and adapt speed to conditions.
. Increase alertness and reduce speed at night. People overdrive their headlights — meaning, they are driving too fast to stop in the distance covered by their headlights.
. Don't try to predict animal movement, slow down immediately if you spot an animal near the roadside.
. Do not panic. Remember that being prepared and thinking ahead will reduce the chances of you or the animal you encounter being injured.
.Know and feel comfortable in your car. Be familiar with things such as your instrument panel so you know instantly what to press in emergency situations to alert other drivers. Your lights different settings so you can adjust them for better visibility. Being comfortable with your cars ability with steering, breaking and manoeuvring, along with with your car controls, means you can react faster and less panicked.
. Slow down as much as possible as soon as you see the cat. Quickly check your rear view mirror to see if another vehicle is driving behind you. If there is a close approaching vehicle, flash your hazard lights to warn of a sudden slowing/break. Flashing your hazard lights alerts cars behind that you are coming to an unexpected slowing/breaking, and will alert them instantly to danger/caution.
. If you thought you saw movement under a parked car or near the roadside in your peripheral vision, you probably did. Same with eye shine when driving at night.
. Get in the habit of scanning the roadside as you drive.
. Check for oncoming vehicles and, if possible, drive more central away from parked cars.
If you have hit the cat, please do not drive off. Follow our advise for how to proceed, including if this occurs out of hours. In some cases, the cat may run off, but never assume this means the cat is OK. If the cat is roadside, and still alive, follow our simple steps to giving them potentially life saving roadside first aid, and get them to a veterinarian straight away.