Whether you’re taking a long road trip, driving a tractor as part of your farm work or going to pick up friends from a city airport, chances are you’re going to be behind the wheel at some point during your time in Australia. It’s therefore a pretty good idea to have some basic road safety tips under your belt. While many rules of the road Down Under will be the same as those of your home country, there are a few exceptions that come into play from Australia being such a large and remote country. So even if you’re feeling fairly confident on the road here, it’s probably a good idea to cast your eyes over these important safety tips for driving in Australia – just to check you and your passengers are aware of them all.
1. Driving in Australia – Stay on the Left!
It might sound like a fairly obvious one, but this means it’s a good place to start. Yes, driving on the left-hand side of the road is a crucial safety tip on the roads in Australia! Plenty of people make the mistake of forgetting it’s different to their home country and often catch themselves swinging over to the right especially on roundabouts or at intersections. If you’re new to driving in Australia, then sticking to the left can be harder than you think, but it’s definitely something you’ll need to remember!
2. Driving in Australia – Watch Out for Animals
This is a key safety tip for Down Under driving, especially if you’re going to be on the road in some more remote or rural areas. Australia has many large wild and farmed animals that love to wander across the road right in front of you. Particularly prevalent during sunrise, sunset and at night, getting passengers to help you spot wildlife on the road can be a great help. This is also a really good reason why you should keep your solo driving time at these most dangerous times of the day to a minimum. Even better if you can avoid to drive during night time or at dawn or dusk.
3. Driving in Australia – Be Aware of School Zones
Speed limits apply across Australia and should always be heeded, otherwise heavy fines apply. What you might not be aware of however, is that some speed zones are temporary i.e. only enforced at particular times of the day. Areas around schools (school zones) are one of these places and generally 40kmph speed limits are imposed in these areas between 7:30-9am and 2:30-3:30pm. Flashing lights and signs will indicate to you where these zones are, but it’s best to be forewarned too.
4. Driving in Australia – Only Make Safe Photo Stops
This is a classic for tourists especially, because knowing how beautiful the Australian landscape is, the temptation to snap photos as you’re driving along is all too great! However, this really isn’t a good idea safety-wise, as stopping abruptly or in unsafe locations and pulling out your camera, can easily cause an accident. If you want to snap a pic, then make sure you can pull over at a safe pace to a reasonable location and not endanger other drivers or passengers in the process.
5. Driving in Australia – Check Road Conditions in Advance
As we all know, Australia is a country of extreme weather. This means road conditions can quickly and easily change. As such, checking the state of the roads in advance of your journey is essential. This is especially important if you’re going to be travelling in remote or rural areas, where flooding or bushfires can significantly impact your intended journey. Road condition reports can generally be found in Visitor Centres along your route, but probably the easiest way to find out is to check road reports online. Each state will have their own website, so make sure you get the details ahead of time.
6. Driving in Australia – Only Tackle Roads Within Your Comfort Levels
As a country full of rugged and rough terrain, it’s good to be aware that a lot of Australian roads are not sealed. This is something that may well differ from your home country. If you’re taking a long road trip, or driving in some of the more remote locations, then you most certainly want to plan your route in advance, making sure you know whether bitumen roads make up the entirety of your intended journey. If not, and you intend to drive on unsealed roads, then make sure you have a suitable vehicle and a suitable skill set to match. A good knowledge of how to operate a 4wd vehicle, as well as some off-road experience is a much-needed starting point.
7. Driving in Australia – Take Breaks Often
Another safety tip key when undertaking long driving journeys in Australia is to take breaks often – ideally 15 minutes every 2 hours. This is where planning your route in advance is also handy, because it will allow you to see where such rest points are available. Sometimes the distance you will be travelling in Australia is far greater than what you’d be used to at home and with the added factors of heat and humidity, driver fatigue is a common problem. To avoid this, make sure you get plenty of fresh air during your breaks and drink lots of water. It’s also a good idea to get out of the car and stretch your legs as often as you can.
8. Drving in Australia – Always Pack Extra Supplies
Breakdowns can be an issue anywhere in the world you’re driving a vehicle, but in Australia, the enormity of this country, means it can be a very long time until you receive or reach help. As such, packing extra supplies is a very important safety tip. Things to consider include extra food, fuel and water and it’s also a good idea to have a torch, some basic tools and a puncture repair kit with you too. If you do get into trouble, always stay with your vehicle and try to reach help via your mobile or satellite phone.
So there you have it, 8 important safety tips for driving in Australia. Hopefully, with these golden nuggets of advice, you’ll be safely enjoying your time across the many roads of this great Land Down Under in no time.
Updated 23/09/2019 – Initially published 24/10/16