Australia Driving Tips

Driving in the OutbackDriving in the Outback

So, you’ve got your campervan and you’re ready to go! But driving on Australian roads, not to mention driving a campervan on Australian roads, may be an entirely different experience than you’re used to.

Australians drive on the left side of the road. If you aren’t used to driving on the left side of the road, it might pay to rent an automatic campervan and be extra careful at turns. Remember you – the driver – should always be in the centre of the road.

  • All drivers, including visitors, must carry their license with them at all times, although you don’t need a special license to drive a campervan.
  • For experienced drivers, the blood alcohol level is 0.05. Provisional drivers and young drivers may not have any alcohol before driving.
  • Seat belts and child restraints must be worn by all vehicle occupants. It’s an instant fine if you’re caught without it. The police do spot checks for seatbelts and drunk drivers regularly.
  • All traffic must proceed in a clockwise direction in a roundabout. A vehicle already on a roundabout has right of way over any vehicles entering.
  • Always overtake to the right. Be sure you can see enough of the road to complete overtaking and move back to your side of the road. Never overtake on corners, blind rises or on double white lines. When overtaking heavy vehicles in wet weather, beware of wind turbulence and wheel spray causing a reduction in visibility. Allow plenty of space behind you when pulling back in after passing a truck. Trucks can’t stop as quickly as cars, especially when carrying heavy loads.
  • When driving on a multi-lane road, keep to the left-hand lane wherever possible. Move to the right to overtake and then move back to the left once it’s safe.
  • At traffic lights, a green arrow means you can go in the direction indicated – even if the main light is red. Look out for the green man crossing sign when turning at traffic lights. Often your light could be green but you have to give way to pedestrians before you can turn.
  • Using a hand-held mobile phone while driving is an offence. If you do need to make or take a call, pull over to the side of the road.
  • If you have an accident where someone is killed or injured, it should be reported to the police at once or within 24 hours. In Western Australia, any accident must be reported to the police.
  • In most states, the maximum speed limit on freeways and major highways is 100kph and local urban limits range from 50 to 80 kph. In the Northern Territory there are highways that are free of any limits. All speed limits are clearly marked and all states use speed detection equipment including mobile and static speed cameras, along with red light cameras. Any fine incurred in Australia is your responsibility and if you’re a foreign national, the fine will be mailed to your home country address.
  • It’s best not to drive your campervan at night outside of town centres or major cities. Wildlife, especially kangaroos, can be very dangerous on our roads particularly at sunrise and sunset (when they’re looking for food). You could encounter all sorts of animals on Australian roads including kangaroos, echidnas, camels, wallabies, cattle emus, pigs, large snakes, wombats, or eagles! They won’t only come out at night, either – be on the lookout all the time.
  • Should you decide you want to go off-road it’s essential you discuss this with someone local, both to get their advice (on weather conditions, the best route, fuel availability and so forth) and to make sure someone local knows your intended route. It’s also a good idea to discuss your intended route with your rental company regarding their policy of driving the campervan on unsealed roads.
  • If you do break down in a remote area, don’t try and get out and walk. People who stay with their vehicles are usually located quickly and easily. Stay in the shade, conserve water, and prepare effective signals.
  • When travelling in remote areas, always take a sufficient supply of water – 5 litres per person per day.
  • Any travel across designated Aboriginal land needs special permission from the owners in advance. This permit process varies from state to state and can take up to six weeks to come through so contact the national parks’ controlling bodies in each state prior to your journey.
  • If the road you’re driving on is dusty, be cautious as it may be concealing potholes and/or washouts.
  • It’s common in the Outback (especially in the Northern Territory) to encounter “road trains” – multi-trailer trucks up to 50 metres long. If you’re coming from the opposite direction to pass a road train, give yourself plenty of room as the displaced air can cause significant buffering. If you’re overtaking one, allow at least 1.5kms of clear road.
  • Roads in Australia are generally good but expect the quality to change from time to time and also remember that there can be very long stretches of road between service stations so plan ahead when you’re in rural areas and Outback regions.

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