Can you brake for animals? [Question about Australian traffic law]

I was driving along today and from the undergrowth jumped a kangaroo, without a hesitation (I think it was pretty much involuntary) I slammed on the breaks and missed it.

I was relating this story to my partner and he started arguing (this has come up before) that if you are rear ended by the car behind you while stopping to avoid an animal you will be liable for the damage caused to the other car.

I think this is absolute rubbish- you are avoiding a traffic hazard which may cause you to lose control of your vehicle and if the car behind is traveling too close it is their fault, or at least a faultless accident.

I also think it’s pretty silly that you would be expected to know this difference between a small child or a large dog in the millisecond it takes before you break.

I’d love some cites, especially any that deal with Australian road rules (specifically QLD).


In the US if you stop for an animal and are rear ended it is the following driver’s fault. In fact, there are probably no circumstances in which the driver who rear ends the leading car would not be ticketed for following too closely. There are circumstances in which the lead driver would be ticketed as well, but hardly any.

nitpick- it’s brake for animals

:smack: I saw that as soon as I posted it! I’m obviously still a little shaken :smiley:
… now to remember how to edit…

Please don’t breed with your partner.

About 30 minutes ago I left to go to grab a bite to eat. It was 1:30 so my choices were limited. Anyhoo, while coming over the top of a very small bridge a cat ran across the road, I’m pretty sure it was black. This got me thinking, shit, here comes some bad luck. Before that cat came across I was probably doing 35 in a 25 since there were zero cars in sight. I got kind of hesitant so I began slowing down and go figure within 150 yards of that cat flying across I spotted the ole unmarked police cruiser in an empty parking lot not too far from the street. Good thing for that cat… Thanks kitty!

Oh, and to answer your question. The simple rule is that if you are hit from behind it is their fault, in most, if not all cases. I’m sure there are certain scenarios that would put the lead driver at fault, but I don’t know the specifics.

Please don’t bring stupid comments to a GQ thread when I have already acknowledged my error.

An anecdote that doesn’t answer the question:

My Mother and her friend were visiting here in Australia a few months ago, and were travelling between Adelaide and Melbourne in a rental car, when suddenly they heard and felt a bamcrunchbam and the car spun out of control. They looked around to discover two huge dents in the car, on the roof and boot, and an injured kangaroo at the side of the road.

They figured two kangaroos crashed onto the car as they were leaping across the road, one didn’t successfully make it across, the other did and bounded off.

Mum said the rental car insurance covered all damages, apparently because it’s such a common occurrence, so they weren’t liable.

[del]No cite, but I am almost certain I remember hearing after a brake-for-animals pile-up accident here in Charlotte that on the interstate if you cause an accident because you stopped unexpectedly, it is your fault. The rule on other roads is, of course, if you hit someone from behind, it’s because you were following too closely; but apparently on the interstate, stopping altogether for no apparent reason (the cars behind couldn’t see the geese or whatever the hell it was) puts the blame fully on the person who initiated the accident.

I’m still looking for a cite.[/del]

Sorry. Found the cite, and I misremembered it completely. Move along.

That doesn’t make sense. I hope whomever wrote that rule understands that a driver can be killed by hitting, say, a deer, at 65 mph and having it come through your windshield or flip your car. If other drivers maintain proper following distance it shouldn’t be an issue. (I know, in the real world other drivers don’t maintain proper following distance, but still.)

So what if the cars behind you couldn’t see (for example) all the stopped traffic in front of you and therefore arn’t expecting you to suddenly stop? Are you just supposed to pile into the traffic jam at full speed to avoid being rear ended?

(KTK this isn’t directed at you, it’s directed at whoever wrote that rule)

See revised post. :slight_smile:

I think she was actually dinging your partner for his/her insistence on your liability for stopping to avoid hitting the large, heavy, car-damaging animal. Kangaroos are at least as large as white-tail deer (our “kangaroo”, as far as rural and semi-rural auto collision risk), and I can’t imagine anyone here insisting that the options are either to hit the deer (and almost total your car) or have full liability for being rear-ended because you braked for it.

Yes, the hindmost driver would be at fault for following too closely, at least in the US.

On a related note, when I turned 16 and got my license, my parent’s insurance agent sat me down to explain the whys and wherefores of car insurance.

“Just remember - if you hit an animal in the road and damage your car, that’s considered ‘an act of God’ and the insurance pays no-fault. If you dodge the animal and in doing so damage your car, that’s considered your fault and will count against you in premiums.”

Please note that you are posting in the General Questions forum. We don’t insult other posters here.

General Questions Moderator

Ok, laws vary from state to state, I dunno how they do it in UK, Canuckistan, Mexico or Oz. But of the 7 states in which I have worked auto claims the following conditions apply:

1) Never drive faster than you can see (*10 points to whomever gets the reference). If something reasonably expectable happens in front of you, including the car in front of you stopping suddenly because it has run into the back of a stopped semi, or the car in front of you stopping for a dog or a kid or a chupacabra that has darted into the road, you must be able to stop without a collision. Rear end accidents are extremely common, you’d be a fool to think the guy in front of you won’t be ramming the guy in front of him on accident. Anticipate it, drive accordingly.

2) If you just slam on your brakes to piss off the guy behind you, as in “do a brake test” to discourage tailgating, then YOU are at fault for intentionally creating a sudden emergency. Absolutely no "what if"s or "yeah but"s should be entertained with this scenario. If you lock 'em up for no good reason, you have willingly endangered the safety of another person (even asshole tailgaters have rights) and have exposed yourself to civil and possibly criminal proceedings.

3) If someone or something darts out in front of you, you are not obliged to run it over, swerve to miss it or slam on the brakes. You are obliged to take the action that a reasonable person would take, and that is going to be different for every situation.

The above rules are common law, IIRC, which I believe applies to the UK and by extension, Oz. But I’m just a claims guy and will immediately piss down my leg if a lawyer comes in and says me nay.

I fixed the spelling in the thread title and added some useful description.

General Questions Moderator

Thanks, it was a hasty post in the middle of an argument!

From my dim and distant memory of the Australian (New South Wales) Traffic Handbook, you are required to take no evasive action against an animal if it could result in an accident involving you or other (human) road users. I’m not sure how this fits in with the old rule of the guy behind always being at fault. There’s no way I’d skid for a cat on a busy highway.

Kangaroos are a different proposition. I’d possibly risk an accident because, as amply illustrated upthread, hitting one is an accident, quite normally. Those fuckers are solid, and you can total a car quite easily if you cop a big one head on.

I think the problem with that earlier requirement is that most evasive action is taken instinctively. If I see a cat (or even an unexpected plastic bag) moving out onto the road just in front of me, I don’t have time to evaluate whether it would “result in an accident involving me or other human road users”. If it’s front of my car, I will slam on the brakes out of pure instinct; perhaps not long enough to stop the car entirely if I realise it’s just a plastic bag, but certainly enough to slow down considerably.

Big Trouble in Little China is where I first heard it…

I can’t find anything specificially mentioning stopping/avoiding animals on the road, but the road rules section on the Queensland Governments website does include the safe stopping distance chart.

I did find the quote below, the section it was in seems to relate it more to being a defense agaisnt getting a parking ticket for being stopped somewhere you techinally shouldn’t, but it would in part at least apply for you being stopped in the middle of a highway.

But at the end of the day the safe following distance is the clincher, irrespective* of why you slammed on the brakes, the following driver, if they had have been following at the appropiate safe distance would have had suffecient time to stop without hitting you.

  • Not entirely correct I know as “Dangerous Driving” gives the police significant leeway if needed if for example you just slammed on the brakes for shits and giggles.